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It’s about communications

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Collaborative partnerships between the law enforcement agency and the individuals and organizations they serve to develop solutions to problems and increase trust in police.~ US Dept of Justice definition of Community Partnership in Community Policing.

Hamilton Police Chief James Collins deserves credit for attending the Neighborhood Crime Watch meeting Sept. 5th held at St. Gregory the Greats’ Community Center. This meeting is typically attended by eight people, yet, last Wednesday, more than 200 very concerned residents attended .  Astonishingly, the mayor and members of township council did not attend, and the chief was left to explain the lack of policy from the Public Safety Director, Mayor John Bencivengo, about communicating effectively with the public regarding the amount of, type of and areas where crime is taking place in Hamilton.

The Hamilton Police Division does an exemplary job solving crime. If we consider that today there are 12 less patrol officers in the Police Division than there were 5 years ago, their success in solving crimes is no small achievement. When considering the rise in crime, less patrol officers could be a significant cause of the increasing rate of crime. An added observation is that despite large tax increases, a 20% increase in overall spending and the rise in crime this municipal government chooses to reduce the size of the police force.

However, seemingly through no fault of their own, the police are hamstrung when it comes to communicating to the press and residents what crime is taking place in Hamilton, which then undermines community policing efforts.

To protect self and property, residents simply want to know in a timely manner that more than one of the same type of crimes are being committed in their neighborhood.  To that point, Hamilton is nearly absent from the local newspapers’ police blotters, residents are largely unaware of what police zone they reside in, do not know their local patrol officers and as formatted the Township’s  website based police blotter is largely useless.

Common sense tells me that the more aware residents are of the types of crimes being committed and the areas in which they are being committed then an aware citizenry would be more ready to assist the police with crime prevention.

Zoomable Map – Burglaries in Hamilton Township, NJ from June 2012 thru September 2012. Source Hamilton Township, NJ Police Division’s Poolice Blotter.

Do the mayor and council subscribe to the philosophy “No news is good news”? Doubtful, but as evidenced by their failure to attend this meeting they are definitely distracted by the federal government’s accusations of corruption in Hamilton Township’s municipal government.

By the end of the September 5th meeting, it was clear those residents’ concerns about the lack of daily and useful announcements to the media and public from the police should have been addressed by the mayor and council members, not the chief.

To better inform and protect residents, Hamilton Township should: have a civilian police employee send daily police blotter information to the local papers; use the reverse 911 system to call residents in specific police zones, alerting them when there is an increase in X criminal activity; make the online police blotter useful by organizing it by police zone, type of crime and then in chronological order; reintroduce the bicycle patrols into crime-prone zones;  and publish online the monthly and semi-annual Unified Crime Report.

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2 Comments

  1. I invite you to take a look at what community policing should be. It can be used, perhaps, as a template. For insight and direction on this and other important police improvement issues, take a look at “Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve Our Nation’s Police” (Amazon.com in US and EU). And the blog at http://improvingpolice.wordpress.com/ where other current police improvement issues are discussed. Good luck and may we all experience not just good but great policing! Great policing is accomplished by police who are well-trained and led, restrained in their use of force, honest, and courteous to every person.

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