Lt. Andrew Copeland leads members of the KPD Citizens Academy on a tour of the police evidence room.
Every Thursday night for the next few weeks, the Keizer Police Department is giving about a dozen Keizer residents an inside look into how policing works as part of its second Citizens Academy.
For now, the residents selected for the program are invited to participate, but the plan is to open up the rolls to every resident of the city in the future.
On Thursday, Feb. 13, the syllabus was a deep dive into how police officers in Keizer are approaching crime.
Lt. Andrew Copeland and Crime Analyst Cara Steele led discussions before taking a tour of the police station. Copeland encouraged participants to envision the three components of crime as the points of a triangle. One point is the potential offender, the second is a suitable target, the third is a guardian.
“The offender is looking for the moment the guardian isn’t paying attention and that’s when a crime occurs,” Copeland said. “Solving the guardian role is the focus of crime prevention.”
One of Steele’s many roles in the department is to watch for data trends that reveal the spaces in the city where suitable targets are being consistently left unguarded. She uses a variety of tactics to develop “intelligence,” or data that has been analyzed, which she then uses to help department officials deploy officers in ways that deter criminal activity.
Some of the things she looks at to crack cases border on humorous.
“If we have a series of car clouts (break-ins) in a neighborhood, one of the things I look for is if there is a known offender who has a mother or mother of children in the neighborhood. We know that there is a good chance those offenders will be in the area because criminals love their moms,” Steele said. “What they are looking for is targets of opportunity.”
Even environmental factors like the weather of the day and the season of the year can be correlated to patterns that pop up in the numbers. Memebers of the Citizen’s Academy’s latest class check out holding cells in the Keizer police station.
Data drives many of the decisions officers make, even when the solutions defy math.
“We had a house where we got consistent calls about a runaway, along the lines of 60 calls a month,” said Copeland. “We brought together all of the stakeholders and had a meeting. It turned out that the kids involved loved police officers. We told them that if they could improve their behavior we would come out and visit them and arrange for some other activities. We had zero calls to that residence after the meeting.”
Other times, attempts to collect data to inform decisions don’t go quite as planned. During the holidays, KPD made extra effort to deter package theft. They placed a trackable package in a neighborhood where they suspected crimes of opportunity to be high.
“What we discovered was that the postal service is really good about putting packages, even the ones they don’t deliver, behind screen doors,” Steele said.
Despite having their attempts to nab a package thief thwarted in that neighborhood, KPD learned something else equally as useful.
“We found out that there are a lot of natural guardians there,” Copeland said. “Not only were mail carriers looking out for residents, there were lots of kids walking through the neighborhood on the way to and from school. We still got useful information.”
During the coming weeks, members of the academy will examine how officers interact with homeless people and support agencies offering other services, how and when officers use force, develop a deeper understanding of how security systems fit into the picture, how to design systems and buildings to deter criminal activity and even what it’s like to take a field sobriety test.
KPD is hoping to create more informed community partners who can help educate others about how their procedures and tactics work.
“At the end of the day, putting on the uniform and the badge doesn’t make us Superman and Wonder Woman,” Copeland said. “What we want to do is provide enforcement in fair and lawful ways.”