NEWS of the Day - December 14, 2012
on some LACP issues of interest

NEWS of the Day - December 14, 2012
on some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood activist across the country

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view ...

We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...



Petaluma Police launch community-oriented policing program

by Janelle Wetzstein

Reinstating a full-time police officer at Petaluma High School and getting officers back to having a closer, more personal relationship with the community are just some of the changes taking place under a new community policing plan initiated by new Police Chief, Patrick Williams.

On Tuesday, Petaluma Police Officer Dan Miller talked with a resident about a homeless encampment near her residence.

Williams, who started in August, has been a long believer in the method of community-based policing, which he put into practice at his former Desert Hot Springs department.

Lt. Mike Cook, formerly a patrol lieutenant who was recently assigned to oversee the new initiative, said that the department is restructuring itself to expand services and better reach the community, despite no increase in budget or staffing.

“We're trying to get back to officers knowing the names of the community members they serve,” said Cook, who grew up in Petaluma and can still remember when he was a child and knew all the officers in town by name.

Another change consists of breaking the city's four police areas, or beats, into 15 smaller districts and assigning patrol officers to those districts for two-year terms in an effort to better connect officers with community members and better identify crime trends. The department will also attempt to recruit 100 volunteers in 100 weeks and hold community meetings with officers every six months.

One of the primary ways the department is looking to become more involved with the community is by restoring a presence on the high school campuses in town. Three years ago, the department cut its three positions at local high schools. Dave Rose, director of student services at Petaluma City Schools, said that bringing back an officer is a welcome move.

“We're extremely excited about this,” said Rose. “Having that lifeline to the police department is crucial for our students and can help curb issues before they become major problems. It is also a deterrent for the kids against negative behaviors.”

Rose said that Officer John Antonio will begin a full-time post at Petaluma High School on Jan. 7, with the hope that when the city's budget rebounds, additional student resource officer positions will be added at the other campuses in Petaluma. Rose added that the chief made the decision of which campus would receive the first student resource officer.

According to Cook, placing an officer on the high school campus requires having one less officer patrolling the streets. He added that patrol officers agreed to work that much harder to cover Antonio's previous workload, in order to bring back this much-needed service.

“We've been begged to bring back this position and we feel that it's worth it to the community,” said Cook. “That connection on the campuses was such a benefit that we decided we had to find a way to make it work.”

Cook added that splitting an officer's time between campuses has proven ineffective in the past and said that it will be his job to find additional funding over the next year — be it from grants, donations or other funding sources — to have an officer at each of Petaluma's other high school campuses. Rose said he will also be working on securing additional funding.

The department has also divided Petaluma into 15 districts and assigned two officers to each district for two-year terms. Currently, the city is divided into four beats, with patrol officers assigned to one of the city's four quadrants on a daily basis.

Under the new system, while officers will still patrol one of those four large beats daily, they will also be assigned to one of the 15 smaller districts and take a much more hands-on approach to monitoring their specific areas.

“Having two officers assigned to smaller districts for longer terms gives those officers more ownership over their areas,” said Cook. “They can identify crime trends, become more known by the citizens, and really find out what's going on in that area — much more than they can when they are just covering one of the city's larger beats.”

The department will also be asking community members and residents from each district to attend a larger community meeting twice a year, to meet with officers and keep them updated on issues of significance.

While expanding services without expanding the budget is a great idea, pulling it off won't be easy. That's where community involvement comes in. Williams has issued a challenge to Cook: Recruit 100 volunteers in 100 weeks. That's quite the task, given the fact that the department currently has just 15 volunteers.

Cook said that he will be meeting with Fremont's police department, which has approximately 200 volunteers, to gather ideas. “Volunteers can be an invaluable asset and do everything that falls through the cracks when you are short staffed,” Cook added.

The department will also be restoring its reserve officer program for the first time in two decades. When the state changed the requirements for reserve officers 20 years ago, forcing volunteer officers to graduate from the police academy before they could serve, Petaluma lost all its reserves.

Cook said that the stricter regulations killed their program and that they haven't tried to recruit reserve officers since then. But now, under Williams' guidance, the department will be looking to supplement its paid force with unpaid, part-time, but fully trained, officers.

So far, the feedback from the rank and file executing Williams' plans has been positive. Detective Paul Gilman, president of the Petaluma Peace Officers Association, said that based on what he's heard from fellow officers, things are going well. “The officers I've talked to seem really excited about it,” Gilman said. “I think we're moving in a good direction.”



Spokane cops take lesson from New Haven model

by Rich Scinto

NEW HAVEN — From Spokane to Tajikistan, police departments are taking a look at the city's model for community policing.

A delegation from the Spokane Police Department in Washington state visited the city this week to learn more about the intimate connection between police and the community.

“Our department has been looking for a better way to drive the crime rate down,” said Capt. Brad Arleth of the Spokane police.

“Clearly, the New Haven Police Department is doing that effectively.”

As of Dec. 1, the city's murder rate for the year was down about 47 percent from last year, according to police incident reports.

Community policing has evolved over the years, said John DeCarlo, a 34-year police veteran who is an associate professor at the University of New Haven and former Branford chief.

“It is a partnership between stakeholders in the community and the police department,” he said to sum up the theory in a nutshell.

In a sense, the police are people and the people are police, he said. It would be impossible for police to cover every inch of the city, which is where the community aspect comes in.

One facet of New Haven's community policing model can be seen during the weekly Compstat meeting. Department members meet with representatives from other law enforcement, social service and justice agencies, as well as community representatives.

“Those are the kind of time saving and efficiency boosting relationships we need,” said Officer David Hartman, New Haven police spokesman.

Chief Dean Esserman was instrumental in helping implement the program, Hartman said. Esserman previously was with the New York Police Department, which was the first to implement Compstat.

Esserman worked at NYPD at the same time as Spokane Police Chief Frank G. Straub Jr.

New Haven was one of the first after the NYPD to integrate it into its policing model, Hartman said.

The Spokane Police Department is looking to implement a similar meeting format in its community, Arleth said. It currently has neighborhood police officers similar to what New Haven has, he said.

Spokane also has a similar program; however, it focuses more on operations and general business practices.

New Haven and Spokane are different cities with somewhat different issues. Spokane is roughly 70 square miles, while New Haven is about 17. Spokane also has about half the number of officers as New Haven, said Maj. Craig Meidl of the Spokane department.

It has more of a property crime problem than New Haven, and more crystal meth instead of other illicit drugs, said Carly Cortright, a strategic analyst for the Spokane department.

Despite the differences, many police departments can benefit from integrating a community model.

“It can be effectively used in both big cities and small towns,” DeCarlo said. “Good policing is good policing and is universal.”

Different cities integrate community policing with other methods in different ratios, he said.

Many departments claim to have a full-fledged community model, but it takes heavy integration to truly be effective, DeCarlo said.

“It's part of the lifeblood of the departments,” he said. “It should be espoused by everyone from patrolmen to the police chief.”

Looking at New Haven's system will help cut the amount of time it will take for Spokane's department to integrate it into its overall strategy.

“New Haven has worked out a lot of the wrinkles,” Meidl said.




Making the city safer

Mayor, police chief credit 'proactive' approach to law enforcement

by Mark E. Vogler

LAWRENCE — With the end of 2012 coming to a close, Mayor William Lantigua and Police Chief John Romero are declaring the city appears to be winning the battle against crime.

“We're seeing a safer city. We've turned the corner,” Romero said as he joined the mayor in his third-floor office at City Hall to announce a 19 percent reduction in crime overall during the first nine months of the year.

This included what the mayor called “a momentous” 83 percent drop in homicides, with one murder in the city through the end of September compared to six murders a year ago. There was a second murder Nov. 4 when a Lowell teenager was gunned down outside a house party.

The city also experienced a major drop in auto theft (40 percent), robbery (26 percent) and burglary (14 percent), according to statistics compiled by John Reynolds, director of the Police Department's crime data analysis unit.

Romero and Lantigua both cited the reactivation of the department's Special Operations Division as the key reason for the positive crime trends. During the first eight months since being re-established on April 10, the 13-officer-unit headed Capt. Roy Vasque has made 807 arrests — including 690 for drug offenses.

“The department recognizes that drugs fuel most of the crimes in the city — the car break-ins, the burglaries, the violent crimes, the homicides — it's all based on drugs,” Romero said Wednesday.

“If you impact on the drug problem, you're going to impact on crime across the board. Those numbers reflect it,” he said.

The Special Operations Unit seized $145,000 in U.S. currency, 17 firearms, 1,465 grams of heroin and more than 1,000 grams of cocaine and crack cocaine as a result of its daily focus on the city's illegal drug trade.

“In my opinion, one of the reasons why crime is down in general is because of the heavy hit on the drug dealing business,” the mayor said.

“They're all impressive,” Lantigua said of the latest crime statistics released by police.

“The one number I find very impressive is the 17 firearms that were taken off the streets ... 17 firearms that are not going to be used in the commission of a crime. That's what takes lives away. Getting those guns out of the street is the most significant (crime statistic),” the mayor said.

Overall, Lawrence Police confiscated 65 firearms through November and made more than 2,000 arrests.

Local police investigation and crime-fighting efforts have been hampered over the past two years by the fiscal problems Lantigua faced when he took office as mayor. The mayor was forced to layoff 24 officers and demote 11 superior officers in mid-2010 in order to balance the budget.

These drastic personnel moves reduced the police force to 110 officers and led to the shutdown of the Special Operations Division which oversaw several specialized crime-fighting units dealing with traffic, insurance fraud, auto theft, drugs and community policing.

“The year 2011 was a very tough year for us,” Romero recalled.

“We lost quite a bit in the way of resources and we stopped being proactive. We had to react to crime. It wasn't anybody's fault. The economy impacted on the city and we lost those officers,” the chief said.

“We essentially became a police department that responded to calls instead of being pro-active,” he said.

But that changed in April after the mayor announced the recall of officers and the restoration of ranks to 11 superior officers. These reinstatements boosted the police force to 120 while enabling the chief to bring back the Special Operations Division.

The revived division was broken down to three parts — the Street Narcotics Unit, Auto Theft/Insurance Fraud and Community Policing.

“In years past with a fully staffed division, officers were assigned to specific units and stayed within those units to concentrate on specific crimes,” Capt. Vasque noted in a memo detailing the division's recent arrest and seizure statistics.

“The strategy has now changed with a one third reduction in the number of officers assigned to the division. The division has now adapted to a smaller, more flexible group of officers with each officers' assignments and responsibilities changing daily based on current crime trends,” he said.

With limited manpower, the division has focused primarily on the drug trade. But its investigations have led to 49 arrests in the area of auto theft/insurance fraud and 68 more for community policing and quality of life crimes

“Since April, we have been able to now start being proactive dealing with crime,” Romero said.

“I'm very confident that we're going to continue reducing crime,” the chief said. He said he expects the current statistics to hold during the final quarter of the year.

Romero credited the mayor's willingness to work with the Police Department to restore supervisors and add more police to the force, in addition to reaching contract agreements with the superior officer and patrol unions

“Patrol is still the backbone of any police force and the detectives who investigates serious crimes,” Romero said.

“But you need more to address the underlying causes of crime. It wouldn't have been possible without the mayor's efforts. We wouldn't have been able to bring back the Special Operations Division unit, which allows us to be proactive. Our crime analysis unit plays a key role as well in identifying potential hot spots and thereby preventing crime,” the chief said.

The Police Department's current force is still way below the 161 officers that were once under Romero's command. The chief said he doesn't know when his department could be back at full strength.

But the chief said he's optimistic that the positive crime-fighting trends will continue.

“I am committed to offer the resources needed, keeping in mind the limitations that we have financially to the Police Department and the other departments,” the mayor said.

“Our specialized units have focused in all areas to improve the quality of life of our residents and rid the city streets of lawless behavior,” Lantigua said.

Crime Down in Lawrence Jan. 1 to Sept. 30 CRIME 2011 2012 Change Murder 6 1 -83 percent *Rape 9 18 100 percent Robbery 184 136 -48 percent Aggravated Assault 391 389 -1 percent Burglary 511 440 -14 percent Larceny over $250 231 259 12 percent Auto Theft 838 504 -40 percent Total 2170 1747 -19 percent Compiled by the Lawrence Police Department crime data analysis unit. *Police say the rape statistics reflect an expansion of the definition of rape over the past year which contributed to the increase.



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