Residents concerned with patrol changes
By JON WILSON
Published January 24, 2007
It is nearly axiomatic: When trouble comes to the neighborhood, residents like to feel a police officer will quickly respond.
Some wonder whether such a comfort level will be possible after police Chief Chuck Harmon last month ended the city's 15-year-old community policing program, placing its 41 officers in other jobs within the department.
Under Harmon's new program, community service officers are liaisons between neighborhoods and police. District community service telephone lines have been established, and police say calls will be monitored and returned within 24 hours.
The approach is likely to be discussed and debated for some time among neighborhood associations and crime watch groups. Not all residents are happy with the method.
"We want the police officer to respond to life-threatening calls first," said Barbara Heck, new president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations.
"With this new community policing effort, you report it, a detective may talk to you on the telephone or, if warranted, come out and talk to you in person.
"No, it's not the same as when the community officer came out and talked directly, but it's a more efficient way of utilizing the Police Department personnel," Heck said.
Recently, some residents of the Old Southeast have experienced what they believe, in the larger picture, may be a citywide concern.
In the past few weeks, they point to a series of crimes, some petty, that they believe police have not responded to thoroughly.
The neighborhood's Yahoo news group has been abuzz.
Bike thefts, burglaries and auto theft are among the crimes residents have reported. It's not that the neighborhood is experiencing a crime wave, residents say.
"I do not live in a crime-ridden neighborhood. Many problems of the past have been eradicated," Charlene DeWitt said.
They also praise the cops who do come through the neighborhood.
Their concern is with the police brass's approach to neighborhood problems and with the way reports are processed.
Desmond Clark recently had an iPod and its cable stolen from his vehicle, which he said was accidentally left unlocked overnight.
He was disappointed that an officer wasn't dispatched and that police charged him 35 cents for a copy of the incident report.
"The big issue we have, everyone is more concerned that these things are happening and when they call the police, they are nonempathetic or won't respond," Clark said.
Reported crime figures supplied by police show a slight decrease in the Old Southeast during December 2006 compared to December 2005. The Police Department has what is known as a telephone reporting unit. It handles calls considered of lesser priority, police say.
Many residents doubtless would like a return to the old community policing.
Staff writer Casey Cora contributed to this report.
Crime a little lower
This chart shows police statistics on some of the reported crime in the Old Southeast during December 2005 compared to December 2006.
Dec 2005 Dec 2006
Residential burglary 11 4
Vehicle burglary 3 8
Auto theft 2 3
Grand theft 1 3
Petty theft 4 4
Total reports 155 141
The Police Department's telephone unit routinely handles these types of calls:
Calls with no known felony suspect, calls with known misdemeanor suspects (except juveniles), burglaries to sheds, garages and carports and calls involving the theft of credit cards or checks.
[Last modified January 24, 2007, 07:23:46]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]