Thursday, July 10, 2014

Public Meetings: Police Department and Carver Center

Only 2 items in today's Diary, but they're both important for Norristown.

First, Police.

Tomorrow morning from 8:30 to 10:30 at Municipal Hall, the Police Department is opening their bi-weekly COMPSTAT meeting to the public. The department's next words in their description is "COMPSTAT is a data driven accountability mechanism that is used by many police departments across the country."

It's a known fact that when words like "data driven accountability mechanism" hit the human brain, it has the same effect as a good dose of Ambian. Everyone stops listening after those words. Like all those technical discussions about net neutrality. Something you should care about deeply becomes something you avoid because it bores you silly.

Simply put, on a bi-weekly basis, the higher-ups in the department (Chief, Captain, Lieutenant, etc) get together and go over the crime reports for the last 2 weeks. They look at the location, day and times of each incidence, and decide where and when in town to have a police presence in the coming weeks. Then 2 weeks later, they go through the same analysis to see if things have improved or have gotten worse. In this way, they can spot trends and try to nip them in the bud.

The NYPD started this system in the mid-1990s and other departments have been following suit since. It does seem to work for large cities, where cops have a lot of ground to cover. One would assume, with Norristown's limited police resources (compared to some other PA communities our size or slightly larger), COMPSTAT could work here, too. I hope, for the public meeting, that residents are allowed to hear where crime is taking place and what kinds, and not only be presented with generalities about how COMPSTAT works, as I observed at a Town Hall with Chief Talbot. Especially if those generalities are couched in boring technical terms like "data driven accountability mechanism."

I would have liked to go tomorrow but, as usual, the public only got a few days notice about this meeting. I have a prior commitment. The good news is, they're supposed to do this again on August 29th (I already have that on my calendar). The notice said "Seating is limited and will be provided on a first come first served basis." I hope that doesn't mean they'll be turning anyone away. If citizens go to the trouble of rearranging their schedules--makes plans to go into work later or get a babysitter or whatever--they ought to be admitted to that meeting. Turning concerned residents away isn't acceptable.

Second, the Carver Center.

A petition just began circulating, asking the board of the Carver Center to hold a public meeting.

I don't know all the problems with the center, other than that they seem to have trouble keeping up on maintenance, but I do know that we have approximately 9,000 youth in Norristown. GNPAL can't handle that many kids alone. Really, we should have one youth center for every thousand kids or so.

It's important to identify the problems at the Carver and start solving them. It's also important that the community be involved with the solution, and stay involved in the coming years.

The petition doesn't make unreasonable demands. It just asks for a public meeting. Please sign it at this link.

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