The following is a quote from a reader in response to the Quota post…
“I’m all in favor of the police enforcing traffic laws and citing dangerous driving. When you have to wait three hours for the police just to show after you’ve had a burglary, however, you have to wonder if all the priorities are in the right place. This isn’t the fault of an individual officer but higher up the chain of command. Sometimes it seems too many resources are devoted to writing citations and not enough to serious crime. We’ve had about a dozen burglaries in our neighborhood in the last 6 months. None of them have been solved. There has been pretty much zero police follow-up. Just getting a phone call returned takes a week. The only time we see a regular police presence is when they’re out on the nearby highway writing citations. We’ve asked for increased drive-by’s in our neighborhood but have been told “we’re understaffed”. Again this is not the fault of the individual officers, they’re only following orders. This seems to be a fault at the level above them.”
You have valid concerns and I would like to take the time to address them.
This will most likely be a lengthy post, so I apologize in advance. I will assume you are not in Law Enforcement (otherwise you’d know the answers to the above) and I’m sure you’re not the only one with the above listed concerns.
First let me briefly explain the different divisions with Patrol. I am in the traffic unit. My main function is just that, traffic. I can and will cover my beat partners, but my main duties are enforcing traffic laws and investigating collisions. I don’t respond to beat details (unless they’re traffic related). By the same token, beat cops don’t handle collisions and typically issue significantly less citations than I do.
A small statistic for you to consider. When I became a Motor, I wrote a significant amount of tickets. Both non-injury collisions and injury collisions for that year were reduced. (I’d give you specific stats, but the Man is in a meeting) I want to say non-injury accidents were reduced by half, if memory serves. Add to that, in 2008, we had no fatal collisions (vigorously knocking wood). It is my belief that there is a direct correlation between the number of traffic stops/citations issued and the reduction in collisions. I believe we are saving lives.
With respect for your comment regarding wait time…unfortunately, you don’t offer enough specifics for me to directly respond to, so I will make some assumptions based on my experience. There is a difference between a ‘hot’ crime and a ‘cold’ crime. A ‘hot’ crime is an in-progress crime. That gets a different response than a ‘cold’ crime. Burglary is a property crime. If the burglary is cold, it will fall down the priority list for my priority details; however, if the house, for example, has not been searched, the police will respond appropriately.
Of course, I don’t know where you live, but you did refer to a dozen burglaries in the last 6 months. Honestly, you should be happy, believe it or not. Two of the Town’s biggest crimes are auto burglaries and residential burglaries. There are simple ways to reduce them, both in Town and wherever you live. I’ll be posting something along the lines of “How to avoid being a victim” in the near future, so I won’t belabor the point here. We can hit a dozen burgs in a matter of weeks, not months.
A lot of them don’t get solved. It’s sad, but it’s true. It has little or nothing to do with the police (at least in Town…I work with some excellent investigators that work tirelessly and have an excellent closure rate). This isn’t CSI (worst show on TV, by the way). Clues (fibers, fingerprints, etc.) are few and far between and for a cold property crime (ie. residential burglary) the crime lab won’t even touch a lot of evidence due to cost. We send in fingerprints when we find them (which is seldom). As a matter of fact, in my five years in Town I know of exactly two cases that fingerprints came back with any positive match (One of them was from the officer doing the fingerprinting).
You mentioned a week waiting for a call back. Again, without knowing where you live, I can only offer the Town experience. We have two investigators and one Detective Sgt. That’s it. One investigator, on a good day, will be handling 40+ cases. If your case is a cold burg with no witnesses, no leads, and no suspects (the lion share of burgs), you are going to be low on the totem pole. It’s not that they/we don’t care, it’s that there are likely more pressing cases (violent crimes, known suspects, etc) than yours on the same desk.
We are, indeed, under-staffed. It is a state-wide epidemic. Unless you have a 24/7 video of your street (which some folks actually do in Town) and you review said tape, you will most likely not see us drive down your street. Will we be there ten, twenty, a thousand minutes after you call for extra patrol? Maybe, maybe not. I feel confident in saying, however, we will be there.
Well, I think that about covers it. I hope that was helpful to you and the rest of you that were wondering the same thing. Listen, at the end of the day, we’re similar. I don’t live in Town, which means when I call my local PD (seldom as it may be), I have to wait just like you…I just know what to expect more than you do since I’m on the other side.
We (cops) are just like you (citizens) we’re human, we get impatient. Sometimes we forget that although this could be our 20th auto burg this month (I’m not exaggerating) it’s most likely your first. I always try to remember that, but sometimes it’s difficult when you’re the 20th person to leave your laptop on the front seat overnight and then are surprised when it ain’t there the next morning.