Police chief pushes partnerships: ‘Fighting crime is a team sport’

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Monday, June 20, 2011

DALLAS—No one can go it alone when it comes to fighting crime and theft, emphasized the police chief of Albuquerque, N.M. “Fighting crime is a team sport and it’s extremely important to keep working as a team,” said Raymond Schultz, chief of police for the Albuquerque Police Department. “Unfortunately, law enforcement often thinks this is a job we can only do by ourselves and don’t realize all the good resources that are out there.” Those resources are often security professionals working in the public sector. During an educational session at the National Retail Federation’s Loss Prevention Conference & Expo, Schultz encouraged security professionals to reach out and engage their local law enforcement agencies.

As the police chief of Albuquerque, Schultz has made fighting property crime and petty theft a high priority for his department. The reason? Small thefts often lead to larger and more serious crimes down the road. “Shoplifters and boosters that are in your stores and in your businesses are also breaking into cars, houses, mailboxes and are involved in all levels of property crime,” he said. “The best place for us to make first contact with them is when they make their first petty larceny.”

Since 2004, Schultz said there have been 52 incidents where his officers were involved in shootings that resulted in the use of deadly force. Out of those 52 incidents, he said only one offender had never had contact with law enforcement. As a matter of fact, 44 percent of those offenders had 11 or more contacts with police, ranging from petty larceny, drugs, shoplifting, and other lesser crimes.

But the police simply don’t have the resources to deal with all those petty crimes. “Law enforcement agencies have experienced a 20 percent reduction in their work force,” he said. And that reduction isn’t coming back. “So what are chiefs doing? They’re reducing personnel and looking at what cases they can lop off or where they can make reductions. Those cuts are often in detective units where they investigate petty crime and larceny,” he said.

Therefore, retailers and others charged with security are faced with a lot more responsibility. Developing partnerships with law enforcement as well as among retailers is critical to battling crime, he emphasized. “You have to share information. You have to share information between all of you much better,” he said. It’s more important than ever for the police to be able to link petty crimes together to prosecute larger and stronger cases to get these offenders off the streets.

In addition to reaching out to loss prevention professionals, Schultz said his agency collaborates with other industries as well. For example, they offer rewards to housekeeping staff that alert police to suspicious activity in hotels, such as an accumulation of a large amount of merchandise. The same goes with construction workers, who are asked to notify police if individuals show up wanting to sell drills or other equipment at a job site.

As a result of these partnerships with the private sector, Schultz said there has been a 28 percent reduction in property crimes in the city. “It’s because we’re sharing information and not trying to do it all ourselves,” he said.

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