The system has been in place eight months.
By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BOARDMAN -- According to police, three Youngstown men pulled into the Movies 8 parking lot here July 14 intent on leaving with a car that did not belong to any of them.
What the trio didn't know was that Patrolman William Woods was waiting for someone to attempt just such a crime.
Woods said he watched as the three attempted to steal a car. He called for backup and made an arrest before the three could get away.
No, Woods cannot predict the future, he was not on routine patrol, and catching a movie was not in his plans.
The officer's presence at the theater was part of a new program that analyzes crime patterns in the township to predict where criminals will strike next.
Police Chief Jeffrey Patterson said the program was first used last Thanksgiving season, when officers arrested several individuals on charges of breaking into cars. He said the system is much better than random patrol because it offers officers a much clearer picture of where a crime will likely occur.
"Random patrol is based on luck, but it has always been done for lack of a better system," Patterson said. "The crime-analysis program tracks the times, dates and locations of a particular crime, allowing officers to see where there may be a pattern."
Once police notice a pattern, police presence is increased, and not always with the uniform and badge most people are accustomed to seeing. Patterson said a potential car thief or burglar could be under surveillance and not know it.
Tracking the data
The system is relatively easy to set up and inexpensive. One department employee, Chrissie Ross, was sent to a 40-hour crime-analysis workshop, then moved from dispatch to the detective division. No new employees were hired for the program.
As officers file reports, Ross compiles the data, looking for patterns in types of crimes, times and locations.
Once a pattern is detected, officers are notified to increase patrols. A weekly bulletin of all the compiled data is circulated throughout the department.
Records from surrounding police departments are included in the data for a better understanding of what crimes are being committed throughout the area.
Patterson said the department will soon put to use a mapping system that shows where each crime in a given time frame was committed by displaying little red dots on a computerized map of the township. Officers would then be able to access crime patterns for a given area at the click of a button.
Patterson said the system is good for tracking any type of repeat offender. Here, it will primarily be used to put the cuffs on car thieves and burglars, but larger areas have found it useful in stopping violent individuals such as serial killers and rapists, he said.