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NCCo Police says predictive policing continues to deliver results

Tom Byrne/Delaware Public Media

New Castle County Police are touting the effectiveness of predictive community policing in decreasing crime.

The county moved to the Targeted Analytical Policing System or TAPS three years ago. TAPS identifies areas with high rates of quality-of-life complaints, such as speeding, disorderly conduct, and drug dealing, and assigns teams of patrol officers and special operations personnel to them

County Police chief Col. Elmer Setting says his department’s numbers show it works.

“What we found over the three years is empirical evidence that when you deal with the quality of life complaints –all other crime goes down to the tune of double digits," said Col. Setting.

Specifically, Setting says overall crime in the county has dropped just over 16 percent under TAPS compared to the 3 years before the county started using it.

The biggest drops came in robberies and burglaries, which fell 38 and 33 percent.  Homicides overall are also down 13 percent, from 38 to 33, under TAPS and shootings fell 29 percent - from 85 to 60.

Col. Setting notes the results are especially in high crime areas like Sparrow Run and Edgemoor Gardens.

“We had all but given up policing there.  We waited for the 911 call to come in for a homicide – Edgemoor Gardens in particular – or the call for the shooting or the robberies.  We went in, put the band-aid on and we left.  And the area was just a powder keg,"  said Setting. "By putting the resources in there focusing on the quality of life crime this is an area (Edgemoor Gardens) where you waited for the sun to come up and find the bodies – and now in the three years we’ve been running this program, we have no homicides."

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn (D-Delaware) has sat in on TAPS meetings where data is examined and priorities set.  He says its clear the system is useful in addressing problem areas.

"There's lots and lost of attention paid to specific neighborhoods, to specific addresses, and to me one of the most impressive things is you have people at the highest command levels who are very knowledgeable about specific streets and specific addresses and that has a lot to do with [TAPS success] - the attention to detail," said Denn.

Setting says New Castle County has maximized its use of the system under current conditions.  He believes the next step is increasing the size of the county police force.  Setting says he’s seeking federal funds to do that – arguing that county has a smaller force than similarly sized counties around the nation.

"[The county is] 427 square miles, and I'm handling about 300,000 plus 911 calls a year, and I'm doing it with 350 officers," said Setting.   "I'm authorized 395 on the books,  but once you factor in police academies, FLMA, injuries, military leave, you end up with about 360 officers policing this county.  That's not a lot.  If you look at counties that are the same size, you'll see agencies that are 5 times,our size, 3 times our size."

Denn says he understands Setting's argument and takes it seriously

"If he says he can use more officers, you can take that to the bank, said Denn.  "Another thing that should be noted is that the country has intermittently been providing a lot of help to other jurisdictions and that's taxed its resources.  So, when you see those [TAPS] results, then that causes you to take much more seriously an agency that says it can do more with more resources."

Setting also notes that the city of Wilmington has adopted a similar predictive policing model, but adds Wilmington is playing catch up on the technology to make it most effective.  

Correction: This story initially reported that New Castle County Police reported a just over 22 percent drop in crime since using the TAPS system.  New Castle County Police later revised that figure to 16.4 after reviewing the data based on a citizen question and finding an error in their calculation.

Tom Byrne has been a fixture covering news in Delaware for three decades. He joined Delaware Public Media in 2010 as our first news director and has guided the news team ever since. When he's not covering the news, he can be found reading history or pursuing his love of all things athletic.
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