submitted by Laura DiCarlo [Email address: lhdicarlo #AT# - replace #AT# with @ ]

Hi Safety Committee!

I went to the Commander’s Forum on Thursday evening and thought I’d
share my notes with you since I didn’t see anyone else from our
committee.  Actually, when I signed in there were no other Allandale
residents on the list, and I was one of the last to enter.  There were
about 20 people present – many from Tarrytown, Rosedale and other
neighborhoods.  In additon, 8 area officers were there, including David
Crowder.  The main presenter was Andy Westbrook and a few others spoke
as well.

Commander Westbrook started by going over the process of what happens when you call 311 or 911, and explained that you should call 311 for old crimes and 911 whenever officer response is needed.  All 911 calls result in an officer report and dispatchers do the 311 reports.  The officers usually do the 911 reports on laptops in their partrol cars, and then all reports are entered into the report database and sent to the supervisor for each area.  Each area of command has a dispatcher and if you are calling from your home your address will automatically come up.  You have to tell where you are if calling from a cell phone.  Even if you call back and say you made a mistake, if a 911 call was made from your house an officer has to come to see you. If there are no investigative leads the case may be suspended and can then be re-opended if leads occur.

Civil cases may be disputed in civil court.  Whether to take fingerprints or not is decided on a case-by-case basis at the crime scene, and usually take months to process.  Pawn hits or other hits on serial numbers on stolen property will cause a suspended case to be re-opened.

A case number is made for every 311 and 911 call, and if you call and want to remain anonymous but may want to call back in reference to your initial call you can use the case number. In cases with suspect information  detectives obtain a victim statement and  victims may view a line-up.  It is very important to try to remember suspect detail such as height, weight, coloring, vehicle make and models, etc.  Property detail for stolen property is very important as well – make, model, color, marks, etc.  The most important things to remember are license number for cars and serial number for items such as electronics. NOBODY EVER KNOWS THEIR SERIAL NUMBERS  (5% OF CASES) – WRITE DOWN SERIAL NUMBERS FOR TVS, BIKES, ETC. Victims may be asked to provide documentation such as sales receipts, serial numbers, voice records in harassment cases, etc.

If probable cause exists that a crime has occurred and a suspect is identified, a warrant for the suspect’s arrest will be prepared.  Once the warrant has been served and the suspect is arrested, misdemeanor cases are in the hands of the County Court and felonies are under District Court.

Crime Prevention Tips:
– Take photos of jewelry and other valuables, put special numbers on things that don’t have serial numbers
– Keep more than 1 record of all your serial numbers, photos of jewelry, descriptions, of tvs, computers, VCRs, etc. Have 1 copy in a safe place in your home, give a copy to a family member who lives elsewhere. Either paper or electronic copies (or both) are good, and can be referred to if items are stolen.  Serial numbers will show up in pawn shop data bases when someone tries to sell your tv.

Commander Singletary then spoke about burglary from vehicles and a female officer followed up with more vehicle and home burglary information.  They noted to call 911 if you see suspicious people in the area.

Trucks have been taken from Highland Mall and transferring illegal immigrants – 3 arrests have been made since January.  Burglary of houses in Austin is up 44% since the same period last year.  There have been 13 arrests so far this year.  20 doors have been kicked in, 14 windows have been broken, and she also mentioned how many entered through open doors and windows but I missed the numbers.

A lieutenant showed a map with hot spots (Hyde Park) and told of an incident the previous night in which a suspect stayed in a woman’s home 14 minutes after kicking in the door, but that officers were there in 3 minutes because she was in a "hot spot".  She was safe and the burglars left with nothing.  He noted that it was dark and no car in the driveway.  He suggested they had been watching and thought she was out of town.  It is important for people to leave lights on and always make it look like people are home even when they are not.  A member of the audience asked about the white van and he said a crime on Spring Lane in Tarrytown was committed by someone else in a white van but that the one everyone is concerned about is owned by a man they are watching but have no reason to arrest.  He was very aware of all the commotion over the white van sightings. 

They then mentioned several programs known to be effective such as Mouse Trap Program (officers tell you whether your car is a target or not), AROW Program (for apartments), VIN etching for cars, Neighborhood Watch Program (Yay!), and Patrol Initiatives (putting officers in hot spots).

Central West is being re-organized into 4 districts and the new map will be coming out March 30 (they said they would e-mail it out to all of us).  The reorganization is taking in west campus.  Some parts south of the river will continue in Central West as well.  Currently there are 56 officers assigned to Central West and 10 will be added to go along with the new zoning.  The shifts are:
6am-4pm, 2pm-12am, 4pm-2am, and 9pm-7am.

There were lots of questions and comments from the audience, and people could pick up goody bags and other literature such as a resource manual, forming a neighborhood watch packet, etc.  I picked up copies.

Thanks, Laura DiCarlo