Kingston Police Chief Egidio Tinti credited public outreach and new patrol strategies and an Internet-based anonymous tip line for contributing to a decline in serious crime in the city last year.
According to statistics compiled by the state Department of Criminal Justice Services based on reports from the KPD “index crimes” — which include murder, rape robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and vehicle theft — declined 11.3 percent in the first 11 months of 2013, compared to the same period in 2012. DCJS officials are still processing data from last month.
The data shows that property crime fell by nearly 13 percent from 730 in 2012 to 636 last year. Violent crime, meanwhile, was up 6.2 percent, spurred by an uptick in reported robberies from 18 in 2012 to 23 last year. Aggravated assaults fell from 43 in 2012 to 41 in 2012. Sample sizes for rape and murder reports — four and one respectively — were too small for statistical analysis. Crimes involving firearms were down from 15 in the first 11 months of 2012 to five for the same period last year. The data on gunplay in the city also shows that two people were injured by gunfire in two incidents in 2013 compared to 10 injured in a single incident in 2012. Kingston cops took 12 illegal firearms off the streets last year, according to the DCJS numbers.
The numbers also show a small increase in reports of domestic violence in the city last year. City police recorded 11 aggravated assaults and 443 simple assaults related to domestic violence last year, compared to seven and 446 respectively in 2012.
Tinti said that he was especially gratified by a nearly 15 percent drop in larcenies last year. Most larcenies, Tinti said, involve the theft of items from unlocked vehicles. The thefts are low-risk crimes of opportunity and a single thief can easily strike a dozen or more vehicles in a few hours making off with everything from GPS systems to loose change. For more than a year, Kingston cops have engaged in a public outreach effort on Facebook and on the streets to encourage residents to lock their car doors and otherwise secure their valuables. When thefts from vehicles are reported, KPD officers go door-to-door in the neighborhood advising residents of the situation and urging then to lock their car doors. Similar outreach strategies are used to combat burglaries and bicycle thefts.
“These are the kinds of crimes of opportunity that we can reduce simply by making the public aware of what’s going on,” said Tinti.
Texting as a tool
The new emphasis on community outreach in 2013 also included the implementation of “Tipsoft” — a mobile-device app that allows citizens to anonymously report crimes via text message. The technology allows tipsters to hold back-and-forth text conversations with cops while identified only by a user ID generated by the software. The two-way communication, Tinti said, was a major improvement over the old phone-based tip line, where callers would simply leave an anonymous message on an answering machine, since cops can text back asking for more information. Tinti said the system, which was introduced early last year, now generates two or three tips a day. Most of the tips involve drug activity and many are accompanied by photographs and GPS coordinates which make it easier for officers to follow up.
“I’m very pleased with the implementation of that program,” said Tinti. “It’s become a very valuable tool for us.”
The department has also introduced a new patrol strategy that capitalizes on crime data and cuts response times. Traditionally, police divided the city into three patrol zones, Uptown, Midtown and Downtown, with at least one car in each sector and two or more in the busy Midtown area. The new scheme divides the city into four zones and assigns cars to more specific patrol routes based on up to date crime data. The plan also calls for a “Broadway car” to patrol the major thoroughfare and the blocks on each side. Mayor Shayne Gallo credited the increased police presence on Broadway and the innovative policing strategies in general with helping draw investment to the Broadway corridor in line with his Midtown revitalization plan.
This year, Tinti said, the department would continue to focus on community policing initiatives — among them a new initiative examining how the environment impacts public safety. Last year, a handful of Kingston cops were among those invited to participate in a three-day seminar on “Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design” sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extension. CPTED involves looking at how common features of the urban landscape, like overgrown bushes and blown streetlights can facilitate crime in a neighborhood. This year, Tinti said, the officers would begin applying that knowledge and seeking out solutions citywide.
“The principles are pretty simple but implementation can be a challenge,” said Tinti. “Some of these things take money.”