Four local law enforcement agencies will share $249,200 in state funding for innovative policing strategies centered on data analysis and technology. The money is part of a $13.1 million funding package for the statewide Operation IMPACT crime fighting program.
The program began in 2005 with a goal of addressing crime in 17 upstate and Long Island jurisdictions which together account for 80 percent of the state’s crime outside of New York City. Locally, the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney’s Office, Kingston Police Department and county Probation Department will each receive a share of the 2013 grant package. The money will fund a range of activities, but the program’s primary focus involves promoting “intelligence-driven” policing strategies and data sharing between agencies to address serious crimes. The program is administered through the state’s department of criminal justice services and officials from all IMPACT jurisdictions must meet regularly with their state Department of Criminal Justice Services counterparts to set goals and monitor progress.
In Kingston, that means money for a crime analyst to crunch numbers and generate maps seeking patterns and hot spots, as well as money for overtime that allows Kingston police to set up special details to act on the information. The money also pays for flyers that cops will distribute door-to-door to warn residents about burglaries or car larcenies in the neighborhood and training to get KPD supervisors up to speed on the latest advances in crime data analysis. Kingston Police Chief Egidio Tinti said the $72,000 awarded to the KPD in the 2013 IMPACT grant might seem like small change in the context of the department’s $8.9 million operating budget, but it’s critical to the department’s efforts to carry out proactive and community-oriented policing. Tinti said 90 percent of the department’s $400,000 2013 overtime budget was reserved for mandated expenses including officers’ court time, filling out rosters when officers are sick, on vacation or in training and keeping detectives in the field during labor-intensive investigations. The $40,000 in IMPACT money allocated to overtime, by contrast, can only be used for proactive investigations utilizing intelligence generated by crime analysis or data-sharing with other local agencies.
“It’s a very important program for us,” said Tinti. “It really frees us up to get beyond the confines of shift work.”
Detective Sgt. Brian Robertson commands the KPD’s Special Investigations Unit, which carries out much of the IMPACT-related policing. Robertson explained how the program worked using the example of an effort earlier this year to clamp down on a rash of thefts from vehicles and opportunistic burglaries. The effort began at a regular monthly meeting of local IMPACT partners and other agencies including state police and Town of Ulster Police. The group studied maps tracking the time, location and other information about each of the thefts. The data, Robertson said, was then used to deploy plainclothes unit in cars, on foot and even on mountain bikes at times and in locations where — based on past patterns — thieves were likely to strike. The team also pulled files on locals with a history of car larcenies and burglaries and advised Kingston cops and other agencies to stop and interview them if the opportunity arose. Some nights, Kingston SIU cops were joined by a sheriff’s deputy paid from the Sheriff’s $44,000 share of the IMPACT funds to act as a “force multiplier.” The end result, Robertson said, was a string of arrests, a drop in burglaries and car larcenies and new wariness among the city’s petty criminals.
“I think it stemmed a lot of stuff,” said Robertson of the anti-larceny effort. “These guys are thinking ‘man every corner I turn there’s an unmarked car waiting.’”
For Ulster County District Attorney Holley Carnright, IMPACT means an extra prosecutor devoted to taking on gang and gun cases. His office got $91,800 in IMPACT money for 2013. The bulk of the award goes to pay for salary, benefits and continuing education for Assistant District Attorney Mike Kavanagh. Kavanagh, Carnright said, is assigned to cases involving serious crimes with am emphasis of violent offenses including gun possession and robbery.
“Many of the people who commit those crimes are repeat offenders,” said Carnright. “You need to have an experienced, trained prosecutor to deal with those cases.”
At the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office, $44,000 in IMPACT money goes to pay overtime for a Deputy to focus on crime in Kingston and to support the Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team. The probation department will receive $40,000 to provide an officer to work full time with the task force which is assigned to proactive drug and gang enforcement investigations around the county. Officials at local agencies receiving the grant money said that the funds paid for crime-fighting activities that would otherwise come from local taxpayers or, in this era of tightening budgets, not be funded at all.
“My fear is that if this program were to go away, with all the cost-shifting between the state and the county,” said Carnright, “is that the county would say, ‘It’s not that we don’t think it’s a good idea, but we can’t afford all of these good ideas.’”