Give us the tools
August 12, 2008
By Catherine R. McNeilly, Commander Zone 3
At the District 4 "Council-on-the-Road" Town Hall meeting on July 31, I was stopped by one of our community members and asked about the impending move of Zone 3 Station from the South Side to Allentown.
I regret that my reply brought quite a heated and unwelcome reaction; however, my opinion is what it is. I'm sure it will cause many people to "grit their teeth" in anger because of a difference of opinion. What I have to say will not be what any community member wants to hear – but it's just a cold hard fact – especially today now more than ever – we need to police differently than we ever did before.
Because of technology – times have changed. Think about it – I am writing today on a computer – just 20 years ago no one even had computers!
Wars are fought differently because of technology – WWII was fought with planes, ships and strategies that are obsolete by today's standards. The war against terrorism we are now engaged in is a global one – and because of the Internet – our enemies can be in our backyard just as easily as they can be 5,000 miles away!
Automation has changed our entire landscape. And so it is with policing…if we try to employ the same techniques and strategies towards fighting crime that worked 20 years ago – we'll lose the battle because technology will have swallowed us up!
It makes absolutely no difference where the police station house is located – in fact, I'm of the opinion that it makes no difference how many station houses you have – the less – the better! That will mean fewer active officers sitting stationary in one place behind a desk – and more officers out on patrol!
We already adamantly encourage our officers not to frequent station houses for this very reason. This is why we have MDT's – "mobile data terminals" – to keep our officers out of the station when they make police reports so they'll do their reporting out on the road.
Proactive police work is not done from any station house – whether it is located in the South Side or in Allentown or any neighborhood. We need police officers to be in motion and on the road – not stagnant and inside!
The community needs to come to the understanding that manning station houses costs precious taxpayer dollars – money that can be better spent by having officers out on patrol.
But – of course – this opinion isn't popular because everyone feels "safer" by having a station house in "their back yard!" This is an example of perception over common sense.
How will the move of the Zone 3 affect your community? It won't! It will only affect the perception of your community – if you let it!
I promise you – the way officers from Zone 3 police any of the 18 neighborhoods within the Zone, respond to calls-for-service, handle citizen complaints; none of this will change!
If you really want to help us – help you – start thinking "technologically" outside the box when you want better, quicker, faster police response!
Start acknowledging the "arena" is not the same one that it was before and join us in clamoring for the tools we need to wage an effective battle! We need "different" – but available tools, things like GPS locators in police vehicles and portable radios that would help dispatchers tremendously in locating the closest police officer to 911 calls!
It may be something that is an expensive investment initially – but once we have it – could decrease response time significantly when you call 9-1-1.
"In the UK, the Metropolitan police are planning to track its entire force by GPS. Trials of the system across two boroughs are set for this autumn before an expected roll-out across London. The Met's 31,000 officers are already tracked by airwave sets in their vehicles. The system also means that officers from neighboring boroughs will be dispatched to incidents if they are closer."
We need to make better use of cameras. I realize that the mayor is working on a grant to install a network of surveillance systems…but that will take time.
I think that – as individuals – we need to act swiftly, rapidly and more intensely.
• I've consulted with the University of Pittsburgh for advice on an initiative that involves researching the possibility of making it affordable and possible to outfit a residential home with a high-tech, motion-activated security camera that can record the comings and goings of activity around property 24/7 – much like is done now at convenience stores or hospitals.
• The high-resolution cameras that are available for residential use can zoom in to see a face, read a license plate, and can even see in the dark.
• These cameras, along with Internet access and the proliferation of the home computer have put security cameras in reach of the average consumer.
• Systems that used to cost several thousand dollars now cost several hundred.
• Finally, until we get to the point where we're more "savvy" with technology than the "elements" are – let's make better use of the tools we have right now!
• If your house is not protected by lighting – especially motion-sensors, a lot of them – why isn't it?
• The bad guys abhor a well-lit area, and will avoid being seen at all costs!
• Lighting your home right now is something you can do quickly, easily and inexpensively!
• Also, we can't stress this enough – stop leaving valuables in your vehicle!
• That helps considerably in discouraging car thefts and break-ins!
Remember – help us- help you!