The Hot Springs Police Department (HSPD) is implementing a Violent Crime Reduction Strategy for 2020-2021 to identify root causes and reduce violence within the city.
Police Chief Chris Chapmond presented the strategy to his staff, as well as the City Manager and Board of Directors. It outlines steps taken since July 1, 2020, to produce a multi-level plan, and includes adding a criminal intelligence specialist, numerous technological opportunities, federal and state prosecution agreements, a violent crime task force, identification of high-risk areas, proactive patrol techniques, the use of grant funding and community outreach and education.
Through prioritization of needs, the HSPD transitioned an open, unfilled position into a civilian-based criminal intelligence specialist. This new role will enhance the capability of the department to collect, analyze and interpret data to develop strategies to fight crime and increase public safety. Such data-driven strategies allow for a focus on high-crime locations, high-risk offenders and repeat victims. “A criminal intelligence specialist will help our officers make sense of the deluge of data collected in the course of their work so they can respond more swiftly and appropriately to emerging public safety issues,” said Chapmond.
Regarding technological additions in the strategy, Chapmond identified four primary initiatives: incorporating a new management dashboard software system, use of ShotSpotter, adding automatic license plate readers and joining the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network.
The use of CompStat Management Dashboard by Spillman Technologies, Inc., which integrates with the HSPD’s current report management system, will allow employees to collect and interpret data to help further develop intelligence-based policing techniques.
ShotSpotter, an acoustic surveillance technology that detects, locates and alerts police agencies of gunfire incidents in real time, will provide data to the HSPD dispatch center, patrol cars and even officers’ smartphones. Included in the digital alerts are precise locations of a shooting event.
“This is an extremely important aspect to our strategy,” said Chapmond. “Since January 1, 2020, we have responded to approximately 600 separate shots-fired incidents, and this piece of technology will allow us to respond faster, to a more precise location and in a safer manner.”
Automatic license plate readers will be utilized both from mobile platforms in dedicated police cruisers and from stationary devices paired in the areas where the ShotSpotter devices are deployed. License plate recognition, which has been used for more than 10 years by law enforcement, aids in investigations from beginning to end, helping solve crimes ranging from minor to serious offenses.
Joining the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN), the only national network that allows for the capture and comparison of ballistic evidence to aid in solving and preventing crimes involving firearms, is vital to any violent crime reduction strategy. The NIBIN will enable HSPD investigators to match ballistics evidence with other cases across the community, state and nation. It will also allow for the creation of charts and maps, linking events and firearms, to ensure investigative resources are properly deployed.
Through the HSPD’s collaboration with Prosecuting Attorney Michelle Lawrence and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the HSPD will have the option of prosecuting suspects in either state or federal court, depending on the circumstances of each case. Furthermore, Lawrence has assigned a dedicated state attorney, who is stationed in Hot Springs, to work with the U.S. Attorney.
“Mrs. Lawrence is the only prosecutor in the Western District to do this, and this demonstrates her commitment to address these types of violent crime issues,” said Chapmond.
HSPD is currently utilizing or applying for two grants, as well as exploring future opportunities, which can directly be tied to combating violent crime. Both of the current grant opportunities are administered through the Bureau of Justice Program. Project Safe Neighborhoods is planned to fund the purchase of the automatic license plate readers. If an Opioid Abuse Grant application by the HSPD is funded, it will allow for dedicated resources to investigate the opioid trade and purchase needed equipment. “The narcotics trade and use are directly related to violent crime,” added Chapmond.
The community outreach and education element contains a continuation of HSPD’s community policing model to engage all aspects of the city. It will also involve the development of outreach programs and mentoring programs for at-risk youth. The goal is to educate the community regarding the ongoing violence, and determine solutions through a police/community partnership.
“The staff of the Hot Springs Police Department believe this comprehensive approach to addressing violent crime issues will make a substantial impact on the community. By working ‘smarter, not harder,’ the dedicated employees of the department will increase their ability to use intelligence-based policing techniques. This will include use of new technologies and leveraging partnerships with area stakeholders, all to the end of confronting and overcoming the task at hand,” said Chapmond in conclusion.