Beloit police chief deals with scarce resources

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Frank Schultz
Saturday, August 23, 2014

BELOIT—A lack of resources brought about by state budget cuts is affecting the ability of Beloit police to deal with the recent spate of shootings, Beloit Police Chief Norm Jacobs said.

But Jacobs said he anticipates getting help from the FBI in the next couple of weeks.

The FBI has investigative resources that local police don't have, Jacobs said, and the FBI also can help with “enforcement.”

Jacobs would not spell out exactly what the FBI would be doing.

Beloit gets help from neighboring town of Beloit officers regularly, and Jacobs has talked to the county sheriff and Janesville police chief about using those agencies' detectives if Beloit detectives become overwhelmed, Jacobs said.

Jacobs is clearly proud of his officers' efforts, but he is down six officers since state budget cuts began hurting municipal budgets in the wake of Act 10, he said.

A grant recently paid for overtime to monitor two houses known for criminal activity, he said, and in addition to some warrant arrests, a couple of guns were taken off the streets.

Officers also have begun making bar and house checks with state probation agents and arresting people who are prohibited from drinking.

One tool that could have provided evidence in some of the shootings is no longer available.

Beloit has a gunshot sensor system, but it no longer functions.

ShotSpotter required a $35,000 annual maintenance contract, and any trouble involved flying company staff from California to fix the proprietary system, Jacobs said.

Jacobs called it “a fabulous system” that he would love to have.

With Wisconsin Act 10's impact on municipal budgets, it was an expense Jacobs had to do without.

Still, all an officer needs to make a case, Jacobs said, is “a decent community member … someone to stand up and say, 'this is what I saw.'”

At least some residents have been wary of getting involved, either because they are fearful of retaliation or because they don't consider themselves part of the system, Jacobs said.

There was a time when people lined up to tell what they knew about a crime, Jacobs said, but that began to change 15 years ago.

Jacobs is heartened by the efforts of residents to address the roots of the problems in high-poverty areas. He knows of at least one effort to settle a dispute between feuding factions.

Last updated: 10:26 am Saturday, August 23, 2014

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