(and what you can do to make it go down more.)
I attended the NPD Compstat meeting on Friday morning. Compstat is a policing method where leaders of the force look at crime stats over a certain period of time, then adjust their resources and strategies to target whatever patterns they see. In Norristown, every 2 weeks, all officers from corporal rank up through Chief sit down and do this. These meetings are long--I had to leave at the 2 hour mark and they were only half way through.
Still, the Compstat method is working for us. Compared to this time last year, crime is down 16% in Norristown. Major crimes like murder and rape were down more than 60%. Auto theft, down 47%. Burglary, down 22%.
But compared to July 2014, August saw a rise in 2 crimes: robberies and burglaries.
Just to clarify, burglary is when someone breaks into a home or business to steal. Robbery is when the criminal confronts the victim and demands cash and/or valuables. Muggings are robberies. Demanding cash from a bank teller is a robbery. Theft is when a criminal picks up something that doesn't belong to him and walks off with it. Shoplifting is theft. If you leave your car open and someone takes something out of it, that's theft. If you invite someone into your home and he walks off with your wallet, that's theft.
In the robberies in Norristown this past month, the victims were nearly all men walking home alone from bars late at night. A lot of the victims even took short cuts down alleys. That's not to say the victims got what they deserved--the criminals are still to blame--but Ntown police are talking to residents in the areas where these crimes are taking place, trying to get them to change the habits that make them more vulnerable. The reality is that robberies were up this month mainly because more robberies were reported, especially in the Hispanic community. And that's totally due to the police making an effort to get out of their cars and talk to residents. Besides that strategy, the police are more closely monitoring bars at closing time, to identify potential victims and see who might be hanging around to follow those victims as they leave.
Burglaries were up for 2 reasons--a lot of folks left town on vacations in August, leaving their homes and businesses vacant, and a lot of air conditioning units are easy to push in, which is how most burglars gained access to buildings this past month. The police are stepping up patrols in high burglary areas and checking businesses at night.
Residents and business owners can help bring this crime stat down--secure your A/C units. Screw it onto your window frame or find some other way to keep it from being pushed in. Maybe take it out of your window when you go on vacation. Lock your windows. Most newer windows even have a locking mechanism that will allow you to open the window about 2 inches, which I use on my downstairs windows while I'm upstairs working, and on my windows above my porch roof overnight. Make sure your house is as secure as possible when you go on vacation. Use timers on your lights. Put decent locks on your doors and use them.
Here's one thing that came up in the meeting. Some businesses and residences have surveillance cameras, but the majority of them are mounted too high. All they'll show is the top of the criminal's head. Mount them at eye-level and more criminals will be caught.
Sure, it would have been great to have this info at the beginning of the summer, but at least we can use it for the last warm weeks of the season. And come next May, let's all remind each other as we put A/C units in our windows and make vacation plans.
In the past month, except for one assault at around 10:30 am and one late afternoon burglary, all robberies, burglaries, assaults and other major crimes took place overnight, between 7 pm and 7 am. Especially now that the weather's getting colder, less people will be on the streets, and our Town Watch can only do so much. Keep an eye on your neighborhood. If you hear suspicious sounds overnight, look outside.
The NPD has a good system going. Crime is going down in Norristown. If you want to check where crimes are being committed each week, check out this link for a map. Click to remove the radius so you can see the whole town.