Police detail costs $23,000 in overtime, nets dozens of arrests

Police detail costs $23,000 in overtime, nets dozens of arrests

DANVILLE — The city spent $23,000 in overtime for a special police operation this summer in response to a rash of crime earlier in the year.

The 548 hours of police overtime over a three-month period from June 7 through Sept. 2 resulted in more than 30 arrests for various crimes in addition to another 24 drug arrests and 50 traffic tickets, according to Public Safety Director Larry Thomason.

Most notably, the detectives in the department made arrests in four of the five homicides that occurred between Jan. 1 and July 5. Thomason said the operation allowed detectives in the police division to focus more time on the homicides.

The $23,000 operation pushes the total overtime for the Danville Police Department to $141,263 so far, according to city Comptroller Gayle Lewis. The city had spent about $133,000 in police overtime at this point last year, according to Lewis, and total police overtime for all of 2012 was $263,000.

In a letter to aldermen, summarizing the special operation, Thomason said that prior to June 7, the city experienced an unusual increase in firearms-related offenses with 16 reported cases investigated by the police, and four of those incidents resulted in the deaths of four people.

In the first five months of last year, there were six firearm-related shootings with one homicide, but the calls for service to police were consistent with the previous year. There were 16,303 calls to police from January to May of this year and 16,360 for the same period last year. Total calls for service for all of 2012 was 40,824, with 17 firearm-related cases resulting in two homicides.

After the rash of incidents earlier this year, Thomason said, Mayor Scott Eisenhauer asked him what was needed to address the situation, and the police department responded with its plan for the special three-month operation.

Thomason said some may question the cost of the special operation compared with the number of arrests and seizures, but he explains in his letter that substantial progress was made in deterring crime and there's more to do. He said he would support hiring more police, but the city budget and economic situation locally, statewide and nationally make that difficult.

"However, crime analysis, planning and resources to put special operations on the street during critical times is a must," he said.

Thomason said the operation demonstrated the effectiveness of special, proactive law enforcement efforts.

The officers working overtime did not supplement regular patrols, but instead, worked irregular hours, making contacts with known gang members and providing a police presence in places not anticipated by groups or individuals and saturating areas known for violent tendencies, according to Thomason. Depending on day and time, he said, there were as many as 17 officers on the street during some four-hour periods.

He said officers collected information about specific groups and their members, identifying individual members of groups or gangs, not only by street names but real names, "and identification of this nature is a huge deterrent to criminal intent."

Law enforcement agencies, Thomason said, are only as effective as the intelligence information gathered, and a large collection of this data was made.

"Information of this sort will carry over well beyond the special detail period and aid the division" in the future, he said.