Cops need to target prevention

DeKalb Police should focus on preventative policing rather than responsive policing to reduce crimes such as armed robbery and murder.

Debrece G. Shields, 25, of DeKalb, died after being shot Oct. 6. at 810 Kimberly Drive, according to a Monday Northern Star article. DeKalb has had about one homicide per year since 2012. Other issues such as robbery increased by 123 percent from 2014 to 2015, and the use or possession of deadly weapons increased by 136 percent, according to the DeKalb Police 2015 annual report.

Of DeKalb County’s four call centers, the DeKalb Police Department received the second highest number of 911 calls with 23,188 in 2015, according to a FOIA document.

DeKalb should hire more officers for the Targeted Response Unit, which focuses on crime prevention, and reduce its response calls so patrol officers can spend less time responding and more time preventing crimes through community involvement.

DeKalb Police had 49,516 calls for service in 2015 or about 136 calls per day which at least one police officer needed to respond to. The 45 patrol officers who respond to service and 911 calls spend 70 percent of their day responding while the remainder of their time is used to address prevention.

Service calls range from noise disturbances or traffic complaints to burglary or sexual assault.

With so many officers dedicated to responding to calls, the police don’t have enough time or officers to tackle prevention in the community. Only one sergeant and three officers work in the Targeted Response Unit.

Commander Jason Leverton said the unit targets a small, fluid group who commits a majority of local crimes such as armed robberies and car burglaries.

Leverton said DeKalb probably receives about 10 to 15 percent more calls for service than other college towns with a similar population and believes the department’s efforts to encourage community policing with the 20/20 program increased calls.

“Yes, there is probably an increase in reporting,” Leverton said. “In recent years with the 20/20 program, more than ever we’re trying to reach out to the community.”

The 20/20 program is a strategic plan of 20 crime reduction and community partnership initiatives.

If the DeKalb Police are responding to an excessive amount of calls, officers cannot focus their energy on building relationships with community members as much.

First Ward Alderman David Jacobson said DeKalb Police are reacting more than preventing.

“A big part of the solution is developing a relationship long-term with residents and police so residents feel comfortable and understand the police are a resource,” Jacobson said.

The DeKalb Police need to focus on developing its relationship with the community one area at a time and assign more officers to prevention efforts.