In the middle of the former Euclid Dispatch Center sits a round table. The room is an “open door” for members of the Euclid police department, Kate McLaughlin said.
The table is there to encourage people to sit down and talk with the new unit that has become “something like a central hub of communication,” as Sgt. Dan Novitski put it.
Since Euclid switched to the Chagrin Valley Dispatch center for services, the police department’s community policing unit and that new unit, the Crime Analysis Unit, are sharing the space.
McLaughlin, a civilian member of the department, and Novitski are heading up the Crime Analysis Unit.
“It’s a way to get ahead of the crime,” Novitski said.
The unit officially began at the start of 2016, but informally began last June after McLaughlin and Novitski attended a course from the Northern Ohio Violent Crime Consortium. By September, they were doing crime analysis part time.
Novitski spent seven years as a detective and in his 18-year career he’s served in multiple roles, including a patrol officer, training officer and SWAT member.
“It’s a good thing to get community police and crime prevention from the skills of a detective,” McLaughlin said. “It’s very helpful when doing crime analysis.”
McLaughlin comes from a background in community policing and records management.
The Crime Analysis Unit provides both short term and longer term analysis.
Novitski analyzes all the reports that come in each day, determining if there are any possible links or patterns.
“Crime analysis enhances the community policing,” Novitski said. “We’re trying to be more proactive, using past patterns to try to predict what’s going to happen.
The patterns aren’t just the type of crime McLaughlin said, but who the offender is, who the victim is, the location and product being stolen.
“It’s nothing new, it’s just a more formal way of looking at the crimes,” he said.
The unit is able to provide information between the patrol officers and the detectives.
Euclid police Capt. Kevin Kelly said when he first began as an officer he would go on a call, take down all of the information and would let the detective bureau know. That’s the only way the detectives would find out about something.
“If it was not something I directly notified somebody about, I assumed the report would be forwarded to the correct people,” he said. “It didn’t. It just got put into the file folder for that day and sat there.”
Kelly called the new unit a hub of information.
Early in the year, there was a string of Value Transfer Machine thefts in Euclid apartment complexes. Looking at the reports, Novitski found a pattern. The suspects were occurring in the late evening or early morning hours, on the weekend. They appeared to be working their way east through the city. Novitski said they could almost predict where the suspects were going to hit next.
Information was sent to apartment complex owners as well as tips for prevention. Crime prevention units in nearby communities were also informed and suggested that they contact the apartment complex managers in their jurisdictions.
The juvenile suspects were not caught in the act, but were later arrested in Parma.
Euclid was also experiencing a string of vehicle thefts at the beginning of the year. The vehicles were predominately Jeeps and Dodges. Again, information was sent out to the city’s apartment complexes. Officers were patrolling the area and a “bait car” was put out to catch them. Eventually, arrests were made and the thefts went down, Novitski said.
Information is also given to help keep residents safer.
Last summer, McLaughlin said, a councilwoman was having a meeting in her ward, and the residents were concerned about thefts from vehicles. She ran the numbers on the thefts from auto reports. This type of crime would spike in the summer time. McLaughlin printed off maps of where the incidents were occurring and provided prevention tips for the residents.
“It’s a marriage of crime analysis and prevention,” McLaughlin said.
The longer-term strategic analysis includes setting up a five-year crime baseline.
“One of the big things we had to do was establish a baseline of crime so we could determine what’s actually on the rise, what’s coming up, what’s coming down. Also we would be able to judge our successes as well.”
McLaughlin said they’re looking at the “why” — why a certain crime may have gone or why it went down.
Numbers themselves don’t always tell the whole story. In 2015, the number of neighbor troubles went down significantly, but it turns out that it wasn’t because everyone was suddenly getting along. With the switch to the Chagrin Valley Dispatch Center, dispatchers are coding these complaints differently than before. When taking that into account, the numbers were consistent with the previous years’ totals.
Kelly said this is why it’s more effective to have McLaughlin and Novitski analyze the numbers.
“Previously, I would just do a search or one of my records people would do a search and say ‘nope these are the numbers’ and that would be it, you’d just look at the numbers, there’s no interpretation,” he said. “At least with Dan and Kate there’s interpretation.”
The police departments in Ohio that have crime analysis units are generally the larger cities, such as Cleveland, Akron and Toledo.
“Staffing is a big expense, somebody still has to write the check,” Kelly said. “You have to commit the financial resources to staff and train the unit, which is really the most important part. We could certainly use another officer on the road and we could certainly have a full 40 hours of week for Kate to do in community policing. The department has to make a commitment to doing this, which we have.”
The goal, Kelly said, is to work smarter.
“It’s smarter to get ahead of the crime and try to prevent the crime from happening in the first place,” Novitski said.