Thursday, November 08, 2007

Oh really! And since when?

Trentonian writer Jack Knarr ignited a controversy with Tuesday's article on how Trenton Police Department brass report crimes.

In response, media representatives and community members were invited to a press conference on Wednesday to hear the department's rebuttal. It should be noted that Director Santiago was not present at the press conference, but left Captain Scarangelli and others to defend the department from the slings and arrows of the media and any malcontents from the community at large who might have been in attendance.

An official response was posted on the City's website. Of particular note was the following section:

The title of Mr. Knarr’s editorial, “TRUE CRIME: THE REAL TRENTON STATISTICS” suggests that there exists an ongoing conspiracy among the Command Staff and within the Trenton Police Department to under report crime in order to show our organization in a positive light. Mr. Knarr’s assertion that a “secret police source” had to “smuggle” out several crime maps from the COMSTAT meeting to show a true compilation of crime in the City of Trenton could not be further from the truth. Crime maps are routinely exhibited to members of the public at community meetings where discussion between the public and police officials concerning crime events often occurs. In addition,crime maps are posted in the roll call rooms throughout the Trenton Police Department for utilization by police personnel to analyze crimes occurring in their areas of responsibility. I do not understand why Mr. Knarr’s “secret police source” would have to smuggle information from the COMSTAT Meetings when it is readily available to him/her each day of the week.

We were particularly interested by the assertion that "Crime maps are routinely exhibited to members of the public at community meetings..."

While this has occurred intermittently over the past several years, it has hardly become routine. In fact, this important flow of information and data reporting to the community has been turned on and off, with no explanation given, over the past several years. There have been several requests for maps to be provided in electronic format for email distribution and/or posting on various websites that have gone unanswered.

Further down in the document, a note is made of the fact that the "weekly crime map for Trenton is on the Police Department's Public Safety Information page."

Lo and behold, a quick check (once we navigated the not so intuitive city website), located the map in question...and the most recent one at that.

Not to sound unduly suspicious, paranoid or cynical, but just how long have these maps been posted there?

Certainly not over the last weekend when the whole website was down due some domain name registration snafu.

And for a city that can find ways to trumpet the most mundane and useless information (ticket sales for the jazz festival via the reverse 911 system comes immediately to mind), why wasn't the public told about the availability of these maps on line? Wouldn't it be simple for the officers attending all these community meetings to state "and the weekly maps are now being posted on the city website" or send a press release to the local media or put a banner on the front page of the website?

Or was this a very sneaky, clandestine response to not only Mr. Knarr's article but the civilian generated and well distributed crime map created by fellow blogger TrentonKat for the past couple of months? And wasn't it just a year ago that there was the big flap between the media and the Police Director about the timely release of any crime reports that ended up in a meeting with the County Prosecutor?

Let's face it folks, by and large the members of the Trenton Police Department are doing a tough job under any circumstances. And the community appreciates that.

What is difficult to accept is the detachment of the non-resident Police Director; his refusal to accept that he is accountable not only to the Mayor but to the citizens of Trenton; and his failure to let the better instincts of the capable members of his command staff take the lead in managing the department.

Let's get back to open and honest dealings about the crime situation in Trenton. Working together,openly and honestly is the only way to go.

No comments: