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October 8, 2013

Technology keeps police on top of crime

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

Troy police continue to use technology in an effort to stay a step ahead of crooks and cut down on car crashes.

Troy police officer Benjamin Neims, crime data analyst, compiles data to identify hot spots for crimes such as car thefts, thefts from cars and burglaries. He started his duties as crime data analyst for the Troy Police Department in December.

“I tell our patrol units that they may want to focus in a certain area,” he said. “I can do this for all types of crimes.”

Neims also uses the data to identify spots with large increases and decreases in car crashes, as well as areas with no change. 

Troy Police Sgt. Andy Breidenich explained that there’s a correlative link between traffic enforcement and reduction in crimes.

Neims compiles the data by setting up a certain threshold, such as two or three more incidents in a particular area, and directing patrols to those areas as quickly as possible, and in some cases saturating the area with plainclothes officers, too, he said.

“We can get these guys pretty quick,” he said of those who perpetrate crime. The Omega Group provides the software to compile the data at a cost of about $300 per year.

Breidenich said police direct Citizens on Patrol to these hot spots, as well.

“This makes them part of the solution,” he said.

The Troy Police Department rolled out the volunteer Citizens on Patrol program in the summer of 2011 in an effort to put more eyes and ears on the street in light of budget cuts and reductions in police. The volunteers complete the Citizens Police Academy and a background check. They patrol in their own vehicles and on their own time, and use their personal cellphones, flashlights and binoculars in the field. They do not carry weapons or directly apprehend suspects, but they keep detailed notes and file reports about anything suspicious they discover on the streets, at parks and on school grounds.

The same maps that police use to pinpoint the hotspots for car crashes and crimes are available online using a free app that can be downloaded to smartphones.

The app, which has been available for about a year, also features links to submit tips, commend an officer, report abandoned vehicles, and access the list of reported sex offenders and press releases issued by the Troy police. The app is available on Droid and Apple phones.

Breidenich said residents have been using the feature to report parking violations.

Search “Troy Police Department” in an app store to download the free app.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Terry Oparka at toparka@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1054.