NEVER A COP AROUND WHEN you need one? The old saw may be right-especially for those who live in one of the North Central Operation’s 32 beats.
This vast area stretches from Rosemeade in the far north to south of Northwest Highway. The boundary to the east is Central Expressway; to the west, it’s the Village of Addison. South of Northwest Highway, the western border reaches to Webbs Chapel Road near Bachman Lake. Lots of single-family homes here, as well as apartments, condominiums, and four major shopping centers. The area encompasses at least three City Council districts. Just how many police officers are out there on patrol fighting crime in residential Gotham?
According to a source inside the North Central Operation, there’s a discrepancy between the number of cops assigned to a watch and the number actually patrolling that night. Typically, thesource says, the numbers look like this:
FIRST WATCH (midnight to 8 a.m.): 31 assigned, 14-18 actually working
Second watch (8 a.m. to 4 p.m.): 38 assigned, 16-19 actually working
THIRD watch (4 p.m. to midnight): 59 assigned, 35-45 actually working
Where are the missing officers? Some are ill, at the Police Academy, or on special assignment. Sometimes the station loans an officer to Vice, for example. The upshot: Only 60 to 70 percent of the allocated officers may actually end up on duty. Which means that on the first and second watches, on average, 5 to 12 residential beats may be left uncovered.
To deter crime, police say, the department chose to put more officers in single cars-more police cars visible on the street may scare off the criminals. A good idea, but some complain it’s like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. When a call comes, the single-car officer must wait one block from the scene until a back-up arrives. Alone in a car, an officer may not be alert. The lone cop may also be in more danger; that could contribute to the city’s difficulty in recruiting qualified police candidates.
The solution? Police who work this area say we need to take a hard, close look at the number of officers it really takes to enforce laws and take a bite out of crime- 24 hours a day.