New Middletown Police Chief Robert Kracyla's ideas include more foot patrols so officers can talk more with residents and business owners, roll call meetings with all the officers and detectives, and starting a Facebook page.
New Middletown Police Chief Robert Kracyla wants officers and the department to communicate more with residents – and he’s using both modern and traditional ideas to accomplish that.
Kracyla has 37 years of law enforcement experience, beginning as a Dover police patrol officer, working as a Delaware State Trooper for 27 years and serving as deputy director of Delaware Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement.
Before taking the oath as Middletown’s chief March 4, he served as chief of the Seaford Police Department where he implemented many of the community policing ideas that he is trying in Middletown, including a Facebook page and a citizens police academy.
But he said probably the most important initiative is something that’s more of a throwback.
More foot patrols
Kracyla is requiring all patrol officers go on foot patrols on a regular basis.
“It could be just the way you see officers on TV or movies, ‘walking the beat’ on the streets, or it could be going to the Senior Center and having lunch with residents,” Kracyla said. “I want our officers to go to a baseball field and interact with parents who are watching a game.”
He plans to have officers walk along streets, talking to people in neighborhoods and checking in with business owners and employees about any problems that have been happening.
He said the goal is to build more trust between residents and officers.
“It’s a great opportunity. It lets our residents get more familiar with our officers and see that they’re human beings,” said Kracyla. “People have to like us before they’ll trust us and cooperate with us.”
Foot patrols can also be used to as part of enforcement efforts.
“You can use statistical data to drive foot patrols – where and when you should be using them,” said Kracyla.
For example, if police see reports of construction site thefts or vandalism overnight on multiple occasions, foot patrols can be used at those sites and times to try to catch the culprits.
“If you know the times shoplifting is occurring most often at a particular store or shopping center, foot patrols can be used to catch suspects or prevent the crimes from occurring,” said Kracyla.
Fans of the old TV show “Hill Street Blues” will remember that the episodes usually started with a roll call meeting, where the sergeant would lead a discussion (and jokes) about what was going on in the department and community.
Kracyla has started regular roll call meetings.
“I’m a big believer in getting the patrol officers and detectives together in the same room to discuss what’s going on and making sure everyone is informed about trends – what we’re all working on,” he said. “There are things that might not necessarily be in a report. The meetings can help us take preventative action and coordinate responses.”
The meetings are also a time to tell officers what the department leaders are working on and to get input and suggestions about those programs.
“It’s been well received,” said Kracyla. “I want everyone to be comfortable with sharing information.”
As for more modern approaches, Kracyla decided to start a department Facebook page as a way to inform the community about programs, events, arrests and crime trends.
The department launched the Facebook page March 15 and it already had more than 3,600 likes and more than 3,700 follows as of this morning, March 22.
“The intended use is to develop a relationship so we can interact more with the community, and people can see the good things we’re doing,” Kracyla said.
At the Seaford Police Department, he said starting a Facebook page was a big help.
“It was very effective as a way to get the word out about our programs, like the citizens police academy,” he said.
The Facebook page also helped the department identify suspects.
“Every time we had a clean photo of a shoplifting suspect on Facebook, we solved that crime,” said Kracyla. “It was amazing. Most of the time within two hours of posting the photo, someone had contacted us” [to identify the suspect].
Kracyla said his ideas are ways he hopes to make an already impressive department even better.
Existing programs such as National Night Out, summer public safety aides and youth programs are some examples of the department’s previous community outreach initiatives, while the department has been at the forefront of technology.
With 37 officers and two K-9 dogs, “the department has state-of-the-art resources and personnel,” said Kracyla. “They’ve had body cameras since 2013. They’ve been very progressive. They have a full-time statistical analyst.”
The police station was built with the growth of the community in mind, with plenty of room for offices, storage, holding cells, showers, locker rooms and a fitness center.
One of the modern features of the station is a “sally port,” where an officer with a suspect in his car can drive into a garage-like area, lock the door of the garage and check his gun in a locked compartment before taking the suspect out of the car and into the holding cell.
“It’s all about safety and eliminating a chance for the suspect to escape or possibly to grab the officer’s weapon during a struggle while the officer is trying to take the suspect to the cell,” said Kracyla.
The department also has a video conference room where suspects can see a court judge without leaving the station, which saves officers the time they previously had to use to drive a suspect to a court while eliminating an opportunity for the suspect to try to get away.
Along with all the resources and staff, Kracycla said what drew him to the job is being able to work in the community where he lives. Kracyla has five sons, include two who are still attending Middletown schools. He’s also been involved as a coach in youth sports leagues in town for years.
“Professionally and personally, for me, this is a dream come true,” he said.