RISE Award nominee: Calif. PD gains community support with crime-curbing innovations
When manpower was down and crime was up, Redlands PD found a solution that did more than catch criminals
Editor’s Note: The TASER RISE Awards have officially commenced. In the second-ever edition of the RISE Award Program, TASER and PoliceOne again honored officers, agencies, and community partners who have risen above the rest. Redlands Police Department is a shining example of what an Agency of the Year nominee truly should be. Stay tuned to find out who our winners are!
In 2011, Redlands (Calif.) Police Department underwent fiscal challenges that reduced their sworn officer count from 92 to 71, which subsequently increased their crime rates. 5 to 6 burglaries were being reported a week, and the traditional solution — conducting a police stakeout — was no longer a viable option. (A single four-man surveillance operation could cost $1,200).
Community policing officers determined to find an affordable solution began researching options to solve the town’s burglary problem. That’s when they came across a specialized GPS tracking device, and approached both community members and local businesses to develop a game plan for deployment.
A Shocking Trial Run
One of Redlands’ biggest problems was car burglaries. So to test out their new device, officers attached the GPS to a laptop and left it sitting visibly inside a vehicle in a gym parking lot known for criminal activity.
After just 45 minutes, officers and dispatchers were notified that the device was activated and in motion. Their first thought was that something went wrong — they’d deployed it incorrectly somehow. But as it moved 50 mph down the freeway, police realized it had worked exactly as they’d hoped — and faster.
Redlands police arrested the suspect in a gas station parking lot and found stolen items in the vehicle’s back seat.
As the device continued to prove successful, the officers had another thought: why not use this for other common thefts, like bikes and oxy?
Mounting Success Stories
After applying their new strategy across many local problem areas, an influx of success stories started pouring in, assuring the department that they’d made the right choice, and the community that their department was really onto something. Here are just some of their accomplishments:
- Mothers of Lost Children — a group devoted to memorializing children’s grave sites — approached the department after experiencing multiple graveyard thefts. After catching the culprits, thanks to a GPS device sewed into one of the stolen items, police recovered over 100 other stolen items from the cemetery.
- After several residential burglaries occurred, police were given permission by a homeowner to deploy a high-end chop saw at a home, complete with a tracking device. Police were able to apprehend two suspects and later found over $95K worth of stolen property at the suspects’ homes.
- Police were informed that burglars responsible for several takeover robberies had recently been threatening convenience store clerks, wearing masks and toting guns. When robbing a service station in Redlands, they stole a money pack with a GPS device inside. After a lengthy pursuit, both suspects were arrested and eventually charged with multiple burglaries that occurred that month.
Redlands police were able to stop bike thefts, credit card skimming scams, vending machine thefts, and even home-delivery package thefts thanks to the innovative technology and the officers’ unwavering commitment to drive down crime.
Special Operations and Investigations Lt. Travis Martinez, who played a lead role in seeking out and deploying the technology, compiled a report to illustrate how effective the program had become in its first three years – not just at targeting theft, but at capturing career criminals.
His report found that 77 of the adults arrested as a result of the GPS device had been arrested a total of 1,262 times, and 19 of them had warrants for their arrest.
To date, the program is responsible for 152 arrests.
Vehicle burglary in Redlands dropped 18.4 percent from 2010 to 2012, while the national property crime rate rose 11 percent from 2010 to 2011.
A Community Builder
"The key is community collaboration," said Martinez. "Virtually every deployment necessitates some form of community interaction."
The department utilizes social media to keep their community aware of the successful work they’re doing.
"We share with our community because they’re our partners in this; we get our information from " said Martinez.
Lt. Martinez said the laptops and other equipment they use as bait are donated to the department by community members wanting to help. They can even go to the department to pick up equipment and a tracker, attach it themselves, and let police and dispatchers do the rest.
"The community just wants someone to spearhead the charge," said Martinez. "They’re willing to provide the tools. You just need to let them know what resources you have."
One of the most recent programs to surface as a result of the tracking program is While You’re Away, a surveillance program the department offers to give community members peace of mind when they leave for vacation.
The GPS tracking program has strengthened ties with the Redlands community, reinforced police legitimacy, and created strong relationships with other police agencies. Spokesmen from Redlands PD have presented the program at national, international, and state conferences so that departments nationwide can follow in their footsteps.
Redlands police keep asking the question ‘what more can we do?’ and they keep finding new answers. In 2014 alone they arrested 64 career criminals, gave their community peace of mind, and shared their knowledge with agencies everywhere. It’s for these reasons that Redlands Police are nominees of TASER’s 2015 RISE Awards for Agency of the Year.