CRIME Holiday patrols reduce amount of car thefts, burglaries

Statistical analysis guided time and place of officer patrols.
BOARDMAN -- A two-month overtime operation to tackle auto thefts and burglaries during the holiday season reduced both crimes by more than 45 percent compared with figures from the previous year, according to Boardman Police Department statistics.
Armed with $13,440 from Boardman trustees, three officers from the Street Crime Unit were deployed six hours a day, two days a week for November and December.
Police Chief Jeffrey Patterson said the operation, designed by Sgt. Glen Riddle, relied on analysis of the crime figures for the two months last year, as well as recent crime trends, in determining where the officers would patrol and when.
"Some of the stuff is fairly common sense," Patterson said. "Malls and shopping centers were areas of to focus on. We picked our days based on when more crime is occurring, with the thought that if we put people out on those days and hours, it should put a monkey wrench into crime."
And that's exactly what happened.
Auto theft for the two months dropped from 57 in 2003 to 28 during the operation; thefts from autos dropped from 52 to 38 and home burglaries dropped from 38 to 21, Patterson said.
The three officers were sent out between 6 and 10 p.m. Saturdays, Tuesdays or Fridays because, "that's what the statistics were supporting," Patterson said.
Canine patrols
The two-month operation used marked police cars and saturation patrols in target areas determined by crime analysis to be likely targets for auto thefts or burglaries.
Officers also conducted surveillance of business and residential areas, as well as known offenders, Patterson said.
Another element of the operation was the use of police dogs on foot patrol, Patterson said.
"We saw that the visible display of [the] dogs displaces crime. I think the canine guy walking with the dog is something people see and react to."
The holiday patrols are an outgrowth of the summer initiatives for the Street Crime Unit both last year and in 2003.
The success of the holiday operation depending on the crime analysis by Riddle, and his ability to stay flexible during the operation.
"You make your battle plan like you do for war," Patterson said, "and then once things are happening, you have to be able to adapt as you need to."
Riddle was particularly effective in December, when only eight burglaries were committed in Boardman -- compared with 22 during December 2003.
Money issue
Patterson said he can't keep afford to keep the holiday operation in effect all year round. "It's flat-out a money issue.
"But I'm working on something to write up a proposal for the whole year," he said. "It will concentrate on the summer months and the holiday period, but the goal is to also give us the flexibility to be able to use the Street Crime Unit at other times of the year when needed."

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