WARREN — As complaints rolled in about crowds of kids causing problems after afternoon dismissal around Lincoln High School last year, Warren police commanders wanted to see what the fuss was about.
“Every time I turned around, I heard more and more about it,” Deputy Police Commissioner Louis Galasso said. “I experienced it myself one day. I was driving there to see what the deal was.”
Driving in an unmarked city car on streets by the school at Nine Mile and Federal, Galasso said he saw crowds of kids dismissed by the afternoon bell walking in the street, loitering on corners and impeding traffic.
The situation outside Lincoln prompted Warren Police Commissioner Jere Green to deploy the Warren Police Department’s newly resurrected Special Operations Unit last spring.
Now operating daily, the unit augments the efforts of the school’s resource officer and complements a strong patrol effort dedicated to keeping the peace for residents of the neighborhood.
“The technique that we’ve used consistently is directed patrol, meaning that you identify an area, and once you identify a problem, you saturate the area with patrol officers,” Green said. “It’s better to be in control than to have to take control.”
Green said when needed, he’s put marked cars on nearby side streets to establish a visible police presence, and officers wrote tickets for disorderly conduct, trespassing, loitering, reckless driving and other violations.
Not all of those gathered in crowds outside Lincoln are among the school’s 900 students. There’s a middle school next door and an elementary school next to that. Some young people wait in the area to pick up siblings. Green said some people come from other districts to meet kids at Lincoln.
Special operations officers are key to handling that situation. They patrol the nearby streets, look for problems, ask questions when needed, and if the situation merits, they write tickets.
“You’ve got a lot of kids who are completely disrespectful to residents. The residents down here aren’t going to tolerate that,” said Sgt. Marty Kroll, assigned to lead the Special Operations Unit. “It’s strict enforcement, but we still want compliance. The goal is to make it a nicer neighborhood for everyone.”
The unit’s members said some days are better than others, but they’re generally seeing results as students and anyone else gathered at the school are continually reminded of the city’s ordinances.
Kroll said anyone bent on making trouble after school now has to look over his or her shoulder and think twice, knowing that Warren police are watching.
“You can’t do that without special ops,” Green added.
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