Posts Tagged ‘Pennsylvania’

Local policing in Pennsylvania

December 19, 2018

Pennsylvania has over 2,500 municipalities and no unincorporated areas. Nearly half the municipalities have their own police departments, while the rest rely on state police, since PA sheriffs lack general police powers. This article describes the policing situation in Allegheny County, which has Pittsburgh PD and 108 other police departments. Most of the PDs are small and many depend heavily on part-time officers. The result is wide variation in staffing, workload, and pay, with the neediest communities often least able to afford reliable, consistent police service.

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Scoop and go

November 15, 2018

This article reports the common police practice in Philadelphia of “scoop and go” — immediately taking gunshot victims to the hospital in patrol cars, rather than waiting for an ambulance. Explaining it, a captain says “We don’t join the Police Department to watch people die.” Study results are mixed, but trauma surgeons say that seconds and minutes matter most in shootings, not any care that EMTs can provide along the way. Besides saving lives, the chief in nearby Camden adds “The streets are always watching. And they see your behavior, and actions speak far louder than words.”

Transit agencies & homelessness

October 27, 2018

This article reports several examples of cities and transit systems responding to challenges presented by homelessness. Subway stations and other transit facilities are often chosen by homeless people for weather protection and some remain open throughout the night. Philadelphia has brought social services into metro stations and police in Minneapolis have taken the lead in obtaining housing and shelter options for people they encounter.

Crime victim vs. public nuisance

October 13, 2018

This article points out an apparent flaw in many public nuisance laws — they can penalize crime victims. In the case of domestic violence, some victims who have called the police multiple times have crossed a threshold that put their home into the public nuisance category, particularly risky when renting from a landlord. Others have been warned that their next call could qualify them as a public nuisance, effectively deterring them from reporting future assaults. Estimates are that less than 10% of public nuisance laws have an exception for domestic abuse victims.

Launching a career from a streetcorner

September 8, 2018

This article reports a new initiative in Philadelphia, started by police, aimed at linking “corner boys” and “corner girls” with job opportunities. On the first Friday of each month, officers, local employers, and workforce developers will visit streetcorners in two sections of the city. “They’ll offer a wide range of support to help the new workers prepare for and retain employment. Barriers such as criminal records, transportation, child-care, computer literacy, and even wardrobe will be addressed through the program.”

Investigating hate crimes

August 26, 2018

This article reports several examples of successful investigation and prosecution of hate crimes. Reporting and documentation of hate crime is inconsistent around the country and federal prosecution is rare, so local police action is usually the key to success or failure. One reason that bias crimes often get overlooked is the element of the offender’s motivation: “Police officers, for most crimes, are not rigorously trained to look at motive. They apprehend; they take reports; they do some investigation.”

Vacant lots & abandoned buildings

August 24, 2018

This article reports efforts in various cities to reduce crime by focusing on places, especially vacant lots and abandoned buildings. The approach follows the same logic as broken windows theory, but emphasizes improving the physical environment rather than police action. A Philadelphia experiment resulted in a 39% reduction in gun violence in and around remediated abandoned buildings and a small decrease for fixed-up vacant lots, with no evidence of displacement and impacts lasting 1-4 years.

Prevalence of police in schools varies

July 12, 2018

This article reviews data on police assigned to schools. Two-thirds of high school students attend a school that has an officer assigned, compared to 45% for middle school and 19% for elementary school. School officers are most common in Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and North Carolina, least common in New York, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Iowa, and Michigan. The evidence on the impact of officers in schools on arrests, offenses, and student behavior is mixed and inconclusive.

Research in the ranks

June 25, 2018

This article reports the recent conference of the American Society of Evidence-Based Policing, which mainly featured current police officers presenting results from their own research. The organization, just a few years old, mirrors similar ones in the UK, Canada, Australia/New Zealand plus initial efforts in India and Mexico. The emphasis is on learning and applying what works, rather than simply relying on “what we’ve always done” or copying the latest popular idea from a neighboring agency.

Where killings go unsolved

June 7, 2018

This article analyzes over 50,000 homicides in U.S. cities, mapping neighborhoods with higher and lower clearance rates. There are variations between cities but also within, with fewer murders solved in low-income minority neighborhoods. Factors seem to include the challenge presented by drug- and gang-related cases, reluctant witnesses, lack of trust in police, and the resources devoted to homicide investigation.