New training could change the way police do business

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Ted Sullivan
Friday, February 12, 2010
— When men in Riverside Park solicited sex from other men a few years ago, Janesville police went undercover and made arrests.

The problem ended, but the operation was time consuming and required lots of manpower.

In hindsight, police could have sent letters to the registered owners of vehicles driven by men causing the problem.

The letters could have told them that their cars were seen at the park when illegal sexual behavior occurred and asked them to call police if they had seen anything.

Such a letter would have solved the problem, and it would have saved time and money.

Janesville police want to do more of that type of creative problem solving after attending new training that started Thursday at Rotary Gardens, Chief Dave Moore said.

Michael Scott, director of the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, spoke to about 75 law enforcement and city officials Thursday about his program, “Best Practices in Community Policing.”

Janesville police invited Scott to come to Janesville and teach four daylong sessions at Rotary Gardens. Scott, also a UW-Madison law professor, is offering the class for free.

Police will always respond to crimes and make arrests, but they also should analyze larger problems and find creative ways to solve them, Scott said.

“The heart of it is really trying to make the police more effective in addressing chronic public safety problems,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is develop police agencies that constantly want to improve.”

For example, a bar might have problems with fights. Police are expected to respond and arrest perpetrators, but they could do more, Scott said.

Police could talk to the bar owner about reducing crowds, serving less alcohol or adding security, he said.

“All those kinds of conditions and others will influence the amount of violence at a bar more than the police do,” Scott said.

If a bank is robbed often, police could analyze the design of the bank’s lobby and security cameras, he said. They also could ask the bank to have a no hats or sunglasses policy or ask the city to pass a robbery-prevention ordinance.

“They’re fairly simple ideas,” Scott said.

Janesville police are good at catching bad guys, but everyone could approach crime with the problem-solving method, Moore said.

“I know this will be a better style of policing,” he said. “This policing perspective will have a positive influence in our community.”

A recently hired crime analyst can use data and mapping technology to identify problems in the city, Moore said. Janesville officers will have opportunities to find solutions.

“They’re committed and talented folks,” he said.

The hope is to reduce the number of victims and calls for service to make the city safer, Moore said. Addressing victims and the environment will help.

The idea isn’t new to Janesville police. The department has worked with community leaders to reduce crime and clean up neighborhoods. It also has worked with landlords and homeowners to stop nuisance problems.

Police also have started making follow-up visits to victims of domestic violence to protect victims, reduce violent incidents and provide services.

Last updated: 12:56 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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