When cops work together, good things can happen.
Last week a mixed bag of local, state and federal cops put the finishing touches on a cooperative effort known as Shiny Penny. After six months of work the officers and agents working for Pierce County’s Auto Crimes Enforcement task force (say that three times fast), netted a treasure trove of stolen vehicles, firearms and other property (Trib 3/2).
Twenty-one people went for that shiny penny, and ended up dangling on ACE’s hook. That is the type of successful collaboration that the other Washington would do well to emulate.
Unfortunately, even such positive results never seem to please certain folks. These people (do I even need to mention Eyman’s name?) give no thought to either the immediate impact on public safety or the long-term effects of large-scale operations. For them there is no corner of government that can’t be trimmed and no public budget that isn’t swollen.
Sure, government waste exists. But so does crime, and that is why task forces like ACE are worth the money.
Without such aggressive programs, we simply revert to the old model: A car is stolen and the owner calls 9-1-1 to report it; a busy patrol officer arrives and takes the report which is handed off to a detective already submerged in cases; the incident is recorded on a spreadsheet and, without an obvious trail to follow, the report collects dust.
In other words, when public dollars are scarce police work becomes reactionary, enforcement devolves into crime management, and the only measure of success is the status quo.
New software technology has helped break that mold. Police agencies now can plug crime data into new trend-mapping software where it is distilled into a coherent guide for future criminal activity. Pretty good stuff if you have enforcement measures ready to handle the problem.
Which brings us back to task forces. Coordinated effort is necessary when cops come up against mobile crime trends such as car theft, narcotics, gangs, burglary, etc. Like the thieves and drug dealers they often pursue, task forces are also mobile by nature. Their value only increases when you consider the following axioms:
1) Criminals don’t recognize city and county lines, or any other type of jurisdictional boundaries;
2) In many categories of crime, a handful of individuals are responsible for a large percentage of criminal activity.
When chiefs initiate a task force, usually with a stroke of their pens, every participating agency has effectively added intel experts, undercover specialists and tactical operators to their roster, along with every state and federal arrest power available in the group. Send out this type of team on a single crime trend, and you should expect to catch some pretty big fish.
That’s why task forces like ACE should be acknowledged, funded and, if money allows, expanded. Think about that the next time a politician or lobbyist wants to cut funding to city hall. That penny you save might be shiny, but it won’t hold any value for the next victim of crime.