Attention making difference in fighting crime in Schenectady
Violent crime down 27 percent over previous year
SCHENECTADY Violent crimes have dropped precipitously under the city’s new effort to put more police in areas where crimes are most likely to occur.
Violent crime is down 27 percent over last year, Chief Brian Kilcullen said at a news conference Tuesday.
And the Fire Department’s new arson task force has made 28 arrests in two years. Previously, many arsons went unsolved.
Chief Michael Della Rocco said the city is now solving far more of its arsons than the national rate. According to the FBI, about 18.5 percent of arsons are solved nationally.
Mayor Gary McCarthy trumpeted the successes of both departments.
“We know there are problems. We’re serious about dealing with the problems,” he said.
To reduce crime, police focused on three crimes, tracking where and when they occurred so they could send more officers there to patrol. They also mapped out the city’s worst traffic accidents and sent extra officers to every zone in which there were serious traffic dangers and many violent crimes.
They saw an immediate reduction last year — crime was down 10 percent citywide. But in the zones they flooded with officers, crime fell far more, Kilcullen said.
Apparently flashing lights also got residents to drive more carefully. In the targeted zones, there were 15 percent fewer crashes than last year, Kilcullen said. In areas where police did not have a stronger presence, crashes fell only 2 percent.
“It was a huge reduction,” he said.
The city has just one crime analyst, so officers picked three of the biggest crimes to focus on first.
One of their focus crimes, thefts from cars, dropped 60 percent, Kilcullen said. Police stopped nearly everyone they found walking the streets late at night, when most thefts happened.
“We developed records of pretty much everyone who was out at night,” Kilcullen said.
Officers also passed out a pamphlet urging car owners to lock their doors and remove all valuables to discourage thieves.
Police also focused on aggravated assaults and burglaries and saw decreases there, as well. But they were not satisfied with the reduction and plan to continue focusing on those crimes.
Kilcullen said police found many aggravated assaults are domestic violence, not stranger on stranger. They are now working with domestic violence groups to develop a better response, as well as determining who is most likely to badly hurt a loved one.
“We’ll identify people who, let’s say, need more of our attention,” Kilcullen said.
Police are also trying new ways to stop burglaries. Officers broke up a crime ring in 2008, reducing burglaries significantly for several years. But then the numbers began to creep up.
“We’re back to where we were before that task force,” Kilcullen said.
This time, police don’t think an organized group is at fault. They think a group of individuals — not working together — are each committing many burglaries.
Tracking them down will take longer, so police decided to continue focusing on that crime in the next six-month tracking period.
This summer, they will also stop focusing on thefts from cars and instead focus on robberies. The department’s analyst will track robbery reports daily to plot out where police should patrol.
Police will also track a fourth crime this summer: firearm crimes. That one will be a bit harder to nail down. Police don’t currently track shots fired in the same way they track robberies or burglaries.
Analysts have to review each case file to find out if it involved firearms. Kilcullen said he’s hoping to change that, making the crime easier to track.