AUBURN — Police Chief Phil Crowell outlined the challenges and tools of a modern police department — less crime busting, more community building.
For example, Auburn police this year began checking in on the 55 registered sex offenders living within the city limits on a weekly basis. They want to make sure those registered offenders — more statistically likely to repeat offend — are where they say they are and look the way they are described in the state's database.
"We've had officers knock on the door to find young ladies there, who had no idea that the person they were living with was a registered sex offender," Crowell said. "In some cases, they had children living with them."
Crowell and several of his officers presented a state of the agency report Monday night in Auburn Hall, shown live on Great Falls TV, posted to Facebook and Twitter and blogged live on the Sun Journal's Web site.
The written report, a 36-page booklet, is available online, on the city's Web site at www.auburnmaine.org.
The department has published the report, which combines crime statistics, spending and programs and initiatives, for a number of years. This is the first time they've hosted a public presentation to discuss it.
Crowell compared it to the Hubble Space telescope, letting Auburn citizens see parts of the departments operations they normally couldn't.
"I know it's not as detailed as Hubble image, but I hope it helps you look deeper at what we're doing," Crowell said.
Overall, crime in the city increased 3 percent in 2009 compared to 2008. Most of that came in larceny-theft category, with 698 reports in 2009 compared to 596 in 2008.
But the department's effectiveness has increased as well, up to 60 percent. That's a 10 percent increase in the solved crime rate compared to 2008.
Crowell gave credit to the bevy of community building-tools the department uses — from having community resource officers in the city's schools to bringing in police volunteers to creating a police cadet program for teens and young adults. He also cited efforts to cut down on long-term problems — including loitering around downtown bars, running red lights and speeding along Minot Avenue.
Technology plays a part as well, with the city using social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter to solve crimes and involve residents, GIS mapping to track crimes and mobile data terminals let patrol officers communicate.
He also unveiled a new program, Community Oriented Problem Solving Analysis Project, aimed at using crime mapping programs and database analysis to show enforcement problems and help police react before they become serious.
"If we know that the incidents of graffiti in a certain part of the city is a problem on Wednesdays between 3 and 5 p.m., we need to be able to react to that," Crowell said.
The department plans to hire a new crime analyst this year to work on that program, Crowell said. The program and the new analyst will be paid with federal grant money.