Major John Cato and Sgt. Justin English can point to several numbers that show early success with Independence Police Department's street crimes unit.
Just as telling, Cato said, is the word on the street.
The new unit, made possible from five new officer positions created in last year's city budget, has made solid inroads in its first six months.
Cato, speaking at this week’s Independence Chamber of Commerce luncheon, said what police have started to hear – from suspects they've caught, informants and officers relaying the word – is “Don't go to Independence.”
“It doesn't take long for word of mouth to spread,” he said.
Sgt. Justin English, who directly supervises the seven-detective group, noted that the street crimes unit has executed 50 search warrants and confiscated at least 50 illegal guns, numerous pounds of illegal drugs and more than 2,000 items of stolen property.
Most notably, in January the unit helped nab a man who had burglarized a series of storage units in the city.
“What we've tried to do is jump inside the criminal activity cycle,” he said. “We try to disrupt their cycles.”
Cato, a 29-year police veteran, said the shift in how technology factors into police work has been incredible.
“So much of what we do has become based on real-time intelligence,” he said. “The raw mechanism of policing, because it's driven by real time, has changed.”
Technology, though, can be a significant recurring cost.
“There's big pieces to this puzzle and only so many resources,” Cato said.
Patrol officers in IPD average 12 to 18 calls for service in a 12-hour period, Cato said, leaving little time for proactive measures.
On the flip side, he said, “Very small number of people are a large part of the recurring crime that affects quality of life.”
The idea of the street crimes unit is to take some dedicated detectives and resources, including data available because of technology, and create a more real-time response.
While the street crimes unit covers the whole city, a larger police force naturally would allow for a larger unit, and more thorough coverage.
“If those resources are expanded, it makes sense that the effect is multiplied,” he said. “Can you measure the crimes you prevent – no, that's an unknown.”
What always helps is communication with citizens, whether it be camera registrations, community watch groups and anything that builds awareness.
“We know that about 90 percent of crimes are crimes of opportunity,” Cato said. “Anything we can do that fosters a sense of community helps.”