Officials report lowered incidents of crime in targeted areas on the one year anniversary of this high-tech, computer-driven program
When New Castle County Chief of Police Col. Edwin Setting started his new policing project in December 2012, some folks had their doubts.
"People actually said to me, 'you're crazy to take money from 911 to fund this thing,'" Setting said.
But after a successful first year, the Targeted Analytical Policing System program is expanding its focus to property crimes including vehicular theft, as announced at a meeting on Tuesday morning celebrating the success of the TAPS program's first full year.
Setting said that the program in itself is simple: address the small quality-of-life crimes in an effort to send the message to criminals that larger crimes will not be tolerated.
Since it was introduced, Setting said that there have been zero homicides in TAPS-targeted neighborhoods, most of which are areas previously plagued by violent and drug-related crime.
Neighborhoods specifically targeted under the program include Edgemoor Gardens, Overlook Colony, the Alban Park area, Sparrow's Run and Smally's Dam Road, among others.
Overall, the county has seen a 9.93 percent decrease in crime across all categories, except for property theft crimes, which Setting admitted is a rising problem statewide.
Among specific crimes, the only category to see an increase is vehicle theft, which Setting said is among the numerous "nuisance crimes" the program is set to target in 2014.
"We realize that Delaware is doing very poorly on property crime," Setting said. "It's considered a nuisance crime all too often on many, many levels … but we can't do that anymore. These people are real victims and we have to take property crime seriously."
Setting said that the department currently has property crime specialists in every platoon; those individuals will focus exclusively on property crime, with the ability to cross boundaries for a faster response time in solving crimes.
Adding an accountability element among the officers, he added, changes the way the department investigates property crimes.
Setting said that while he was hesitant to quote any specific figures, it was his hope to stand at the two-year anniversary of the program with a report on a reduction in property crimes.
In drug-related arrests, heroin and related opiates continue to top the list; however, methamphetamine – a product increasingly easy to produce in small batches – is on the rise, with over 2,000 grams seized in 2013 versus 1.4 grams in 2012.
The software used in the TAPS program, Setting said, can target crime areas as well as the time of day and the day of the week when patrols should focus on those areas.
The department also holds weekly meetings, with reports from each division on targeted regions, where that data is revealed and analyzed.
County Executive Tom Gordon said that the county is now approaching crime in a holistic method, with technology leading the way in how modern policing is done.
"It works," he said. "Computers can tell you where to put your resources with very, very deadly accuracy. I'm happy with the team we have here in public safety, and where we went this year."
Director of Public Safety Joseph Bryant said that while he had initial doubts about the program, he was impressed with how far crime has decreased in the past year.
"We dropped crime in this time like never before," Bryant said. "Your approach to fighting crime in this county is comprehensive."