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Expert on problem-oriented policing provides some advice for Batavia

It's one thing, according to Andy Mills, chief of police in Eureka, Calif., to lock down a neighborhood and try to initiate police contact with every resident.

It's an entirely different approach to bring all of the resources of city government onto a troubled street and invite residents to participate in local problem solving.

The first approach invites resentment, Mills said. The second opens doors to better communication between residents and police.

Mills hopes the Batavia's plans for what officials have called "neighborhood sweeps" is more like what the city of San Antonio, Texas, has been doing, which is setting up mobile city halls in troubled residential areas.

"It all depends on the intent of the effort," Mills said. "If it's a temporary city hall where people can come to you and tell you what the issues are and what they would like to see addressed, I think that's a wonderful idea. If the effort is going to be going in and throwing up an iron curtain and body checking everybody (who) is coming through, I wouldn't see that as viable. At least, I wouldn't do it."

Mills was encouraged by a statement from City Manager Jason Molino that he read where Molino said the goal was to get folks out of their homes and communicate with local officials. That's the right approach, Mills said.

Mills is a former captain with the San Diego Police Dept., where he worked, among other assignments, in the gangs and intelligence units. He has done consulting work all over the the United States in problem-oriented policing and managed a patrol team that won the Herman Goldstein Award for Excellence in Problem-Oriented Policing. He's also won the Police Executive Research Forum’s national Gary P. Hayes Award for his contributions to improving the quality of police service.

(I was introduced to Mills this week by Rana Sampson, a nationally known expert in community-oriented policing, whom I met in 1996 when I wrote a profile of her for San Diego Magazine.)

Eureka is a small city, especially by California standards, with a population of 27,000. It's located on the coast in Northern California.

Just this week, Mills said, he met with a group of Eureka residents sharing some of the same kinds of concerns arising in Batavia.

The good news is, Mills said, Batavia, like Eureka, has a community of people concerned enough about their community to get involved.

Shawn Heubusch, Batavia's chief, has said BPD's response to neighborhood problems will be data-driven. Data on crime and complaints and the suspected location of people known to cause problems will be used to select neighborhoods for sweeps. 

Using data to identify problem areas is the right approach, Mills said.

"You should certainly focus a lot of your resources on those locations," Mills said. "That would go to the heart of problem-oriented policing."

Identifying landlords who won't bring buildings into code compliance is also a good approach.

"You want to remove the environment that makes those neighborhoods friendly to ne'er-do-wells," Mills said.

He added, "You certainly want to create an environment where criminals feel uncomfortable, but at the same time, you want to make sure government works for all people. You certainly look at criminal behavior rather than a criminal profile. You tackle behaviors. If somebody is selling dope at a particular location or creating social disorder by hanging out, you tackle those specific problems."

The mission of making the environment uncomfortable for criminals, of course, should not disrupt the rights of individuals, he said.

As for the seeming rise in gun play in the Batavia, it's certainly something to pay attention to, Mills said, but he also praised Batavia PD for reacting strongly to the rise in gun-related incidents.

"I applaud them for being attuned and aware of what they're facing," Mills said.

He said, it's important, though, not to overreact.

"If you're having an isolated problem, then get rid of the problem," Mills said. "If you're seeing a trend, then deal with the trend."

That's where analyzing data and being thoughtful about what it means comes into play, Mills said.

"I think what you need to do is establish overall trends," Mills said. "If you're starting to see trends that are a concern, take a look at that. I would want to see more over a longer period of time before we made any harsh decisions that could have a long-term impact on a community. That's not to say a neighborhood sweep is a harsh decision. I'm just talking in general."

On video surveillance cameras, there's no doubt they are very successful at reducing crime, Mills said.

"I don't have a problem with them," Mills said. "There are some liberty issues that your local community will need to wrestle with, but I'm generally in favor of using cameras under the right circumstances."

Cameras, he said, should be monitored.

When told that wasn't the plan in Batavia, that rather, recordings would be reviewed after the fact of a crime, Mills said he understands the resources it would take a small police department to monitor surveillance cameras around the clock, but there's also a solution to that problem.

"Ask volunteer community members to monitor the streams over the Web," Mills suggested. "There are a variety of options, but getting a camera is the step in the right direction."

Among the resources Mills recommend is the Web site for the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing and particularly the article "25 Techniques of Situational Prevention."

"Batavia sounds like a wonderful city," Mills said. "People really care about their neighborhoods. If you look at the research, where people are looking out for each other, crime is reduced."

Kelly Hansen
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It is a long way from the initial message that neighborhoods would be in lock-down and no one could leave without showing ID, to saying that there will be mini version of city government visiting troubled neighborhoods in order to pinpoint what makes the 'bad guys' feel comfortable there. That the former was even said still alarms me when the latter just makes so much sense, it seems silly to have to point out that it would be a good idea.

People were angry, and rightly so, about the hair-width difference between, "Can I see some ID?" while breaking no laws in your own neighborhood, and the "Let me see your papers" of a 1930's facist government. First they take one group's rights away, and when that happens, they can take the rights of the next group away in turn. Hey, even 'bad guys' have rights without due cause. Thanks to The Batavian, the program intentions have been better explained. I hope Mr. Molino learned something about trying to un-ring a bell. Judging by comments here and on Facebook, I think a lot of Batavians still can't get that first scenario out of their minds.

Jason Crater
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"Ask volunteer community members to monitor the streams over the Web," Mills suggested. "There are a variety of options, but getting a camera is the step in the right direction."

-anybody remember the episode of the Simpsons where they do this and Ned ends up being the morality police?

john pocock
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Oh Joy!! We have now become a police state. Maybe they will ask for my I.D. while I'm mowing my lawn. I DO have a problem with this.

scott williams
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Some very good points raised here not sure if the average citizen will work at monitoring cameras though. Some people view people standing outside smoking as a crime maybe though retired police or some other retired law enforcement..
I also worry about where the mess thats in one neighborhood is going to go when chased away, I think that answer is obvious. Also the landlord connection HAS GOT TO BE INCLUDED IN THIS PROBLEM. The city needs to come up with tough rules in this city for being a landlord a lot of landlords who use agencies for tennants dont even know who is in their house. Batavia should make it mandatory to make these agencies responsible for who they are bringing into this community. Many times felons of all types are placed right next door to young families with kids or next to old people who are afraid.

3+3+3 For any landlord or agency who places people in an apartment and any time there is 3 arrests or 3 code violations in 3 years you cease to do business in our community. And the city on the other hand needs to come up with plans for helping landlords remove the trouble. STIFF FINES FOR CODE VIOLATIONS NO EXCUSE A $25 FINE WILL NOT STOP LANDLORDS FROM KEEPING THEIR HOUSE IN VIOLATION. We need fines of a $100 for first offense in a year that is not fixed with two notices same violation in a year $500 and 3rd violation with in a year $1000 fourth your done. These enforcements are also for any land owner who is constantly written up every week by code enforcement and I am not exagerating same owners all the time using or code enforcement office like its a joke and their own babysitter.
We need to get tough before its to late this city is in decay morally and physically and we all know what that invites.
Its great to see something being done many people in our community care. I think the B.P.D. will find the right way to fix the problem and city council needs to get tough also.

Kyle Couchman
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I agree with Scott on one thing, Landlords have to be more accountable. But this inof itself can be a minefield. Tenants have rights, and some rights can severely limit a landlord in what he can and can't do legally Here is a link straight from NYS Attorney General's Office on this, you may be surprised and even pissed at some of this as I know some local landlords violate these rights.

http://www.ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/pdfs/publications/Tenant_Rights...

it hasn't been updated since 2011 since there has been no significant change since then.

However Landlords can discriminate in renting to people with a criminal record. Your record is available for a fee from several sources on the internet. Alot of other factors are illegal to discriminate for but a criminal record is not one yet. But in doing so landlords can abuse this and end up having it added to fair housing laws. It makes things very difficult for landlords and sometimes they take chances. But it is a fair request and may have to end up becoming a city code before it can be "imposed" on landlords.

However if you read the AG's Tenant rights from NYS you'll find once in a tenant has alot more power than I think some landlords even realize. Having spent 20 yrs as a property manager in Ithaca, and having Cornell Law School students as tenants I can tell you that you as a tenant can really make things expensive and difficult. Using your rights.

This complexity is something that Scott and other that just say... Deny landlords the ability to do business here... Don't realize. Even if we implemented this, what happens if the property owners walk away, let the Govt seize the property and tie it up in litigation for decades. We end up with abandoned properties dotting the neighborhoods, then we have squatter issues as they become inhabited by homeless, feral animals and such, as well as fire, structural collapse and such. We will effectively change one set of problems for another.

Answers to these issues need to be found, but just getting tough is the extreme other side of the pendulum swing from what we have now and just trading one problem for another....

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