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1/15/2014
Targeted policing cut NCCo crime rates, 911 calls; Taps: Setting says top target now is property crime - News Journal


“Although it’s working, it’s not the finish line, it’s the starting line.” 
Elmer Setting, New Castle County police chief


Targeted policing cut NCCo crime rates, 911 calls; Taps: Setting says top target now is property crime
By Terri Sanginiti and Adam Taylor  The News Journal 1/15/14

A little more than a year ago, the New Castle County Police Department was on a 911 treadmill, with officers spending virtually all of their time responding to calls and taking reports about crimes that already happened.

County Executive Tom Gordon made Elmer Setting chief of police and told him to change that – and Setting did, according to a report about county crime in 2013 released Tuesday.

By enhancing the department’s use of crime data analysis to place officers in the areas where crimes are most likely to occur, overall crime went down by nearly 10 percent compared with 2012.

There were fewer 911 calls as well, because officers in the hot spots had a deterrent effect, Setting said. And because the officers were in the right spots and weren’t chasing calls for service, they had more time to initiate their own crime investigations, which led to an increase in arrests. Gordon and Setting credit the department’s success to the increased use of its Targeted Analytical Policing System. The TAPS program operates by identifying areas within crime-plagued communities such as Edgemoor Gardens, Rosegate, Wilton and the Smalleys Dam Road area.

Teams of patrol officers and special-operations personnel saturate the neighborhoods to prevent smaller crimes before things turn violent.

Police supervisors assigned to those specific areas then have to report the crime trends during the weekly TAPS meeting to police brass and county council members, brainstorm the problem and are held accountable for solving the issues. “This sort of predictive policing puts the officers right in the spots they need to be at the times they need to be there,” Gordon said. “We’ve got limited resources to hire more officers, so to not use these computerized resources to analyze the data would be foolish.”

Crime went down by nearly 10 percent in every major category except vehicle thefts, which rose a little more than 2 percent, Setting said at the weekly TAPS meeting Tuesday. There were 10 homi-cides last year, down from 17 in 2012. Shootings were reduced by 50 percent, from 30 to 15, shootings by 50 percent , from 30 to 15, assaults down from 526 in 2012 to 383 last year, and robberies down 26.8 percent from 254 to 186.

The 911 calls went down by 7.6 percent; arrests went up by 8.6 percent.

Not all the statistics were good, however. County detectives solved 20 percent of its murder cases last year. The national average is 62.5 percent, according to the FBI’s Unified Crime Reporting for 2012.

County police have 346 officers who cover 494 square miles of the unincorporated parts of the county, which has about 546,000 residents. The officers are aided in part by technology, crime analysis, mapping programs and extra police resources, in addition to one key ingredient – federal grant money, which provides the department with the funds needed to keep them up to date on the latest technologies and pays for any additional manpower needed to get a handle on crime in those communities.

“Although it’s working, it’s not the finish line, it’s the starting line,” Setting said of the program’s success. “We couldn’t have done it without technology and the federal grants.” This year, Setting has made it his goal to “take on property crime at the root level” by implementing a new initiative with dedicated detectives who focus on nothing but property crime, which he called, “the No. 1 problem in the county.” After viewing the more than hour-long presentation, Wilmington City Councilman Mike Brown Sr. said he was pleased with what the county had accomplished and hoped that Wilmington would have the same success with a similar public safety program the city was rolling out.

The city, with its own significant crime problems, has reported 10 shootings already this year, two of them fatal.

One thing that the county has used to help with crime reduction that the city hasn’t used ag-gressively is federal grant money, Brown said. “The city had a grant writer, but the grant writer’s employment didn’t last long,” he said. “The Wilmington Police Department has a dedicated assigned officer to manage the state grants and any federal grants, not to write grants. You’ve got to know how to write them.” Brown said he hopes the city sees success similar to the county’s under the new crime plan Mayor Dennis Williams outlined this week.

“I’m looking forward to getting a similar report next year about what Wilmington has done,” Brown said.

Contact Terri Sanginiti at (302) 324-2771 or tsanginiti@delawareonline.com

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