New team tackles crime

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Clovis Police Detective Randy Pitcock, left, and Officer Jimmy Brown investigate after responding to a call in the 1600 block of E. Second Street. The officers responded to a call about a male outside the house discharging a weapon.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

They may be circling the block, running radar, walking up and down sidewalks or even knocking on your door. Their aim is high visibility as law enforcers and community members.

The neighborhood impact unit — five officers focused in a relatively small area, can, Clovis police Sgt. Robert Denney believes, make a dent in street crime.

The team is made up of narcotics officers, K-9 teams and patrol officers who work flexible schedules and can respond en masse.
In its second week, Denney said he wants his team to make a difference in the neighborhoods he has been patrolling for more than seven years.

The unit is a new approach to an old problem, Denney said, and not an indication of rising crime rates.

According to yearly department statistical data, violent crime in Clovis dropped 10 percent from 2005 to 2006, while property crime in Clovis (burglary, theft and larceny and motor vehicle theft) increased about 9 percent.

Denney said it’s unrealistic to think crime will ever be eliminated but he believes the unit can make a difference.

“We can put a dent in it so people can let their kids play out in their yards,” he said. “If there’s a crime problem in the neighborhood, we want to be there.”

The unit selects areas experiencing various problems.

“DWI, burglary, you name that crime that affects that neighborhood and we’re there for it,” he said. “Our goal is to improve community life by street level enforcement.”

An area of about a square mile receives saturation. Police will issue traffic tickets, make arrests on outstanding warrants, perform DWI checks, talk to residents and watch for illegal activity.

“We may be in one area all night, we may be in one area a couple of hours,” he said. “We’ll jump around and we’ll change our tactics up because it’s definitely a moving situation sometimes.”

Denney said the saturations aren’t based on the area’s demographics because, “This town is just a melting pot.”

In the last week, officers concentrated on areas between Prince and Cameo and 14th and Seventh streets. They have also gone to neighborhoods north of 21st Street and a neighborhood experiencing daylight burglaries.

Presence of officers on the street can deter criminal activity and help police get to know the people they serve.

“It’s that consistent contact a lot of times that leads to something,” Denney said.

In one northwestern Clovis neighborhood, Denney said residents believed one house was a hub for drug activity. Officers knocked on the door and introduced themselves, then stayed in the area for the rest of their shift. “Within 24 hours the (residents of the) house that everybody complained about moved out,” he said, “and we didn’t do anything but talk to them.”

Betty Snipes, a 15-year resident in the 1000 block of Pile Street, said she frequently sees police in her neighborhood and feels like they watch the area closely.

Though she hasn’t had many problems, Snipes said blocks south of her seem to have issues. The impact unit seems like a good idea, “if (police) have enough people and they have enough time to do it.”

Samm Smith, on the other hand, lives one block east of Snipes on Gidding Street and said she has called police several times in the year and a half she has lived there.

“I had to call one night last week because some drunk was trying to get into my house,” she said, adding that she thinks an impact unit is “a great idea.”

Citizens with crime concerns can call 769-1921.

Felony crimes in Clovis over a five-year period:
Murder
2006: 3
2005: 2
2004: 10
2003: 3
2002: 4

Rape, criminal sexual penetration of a minor
2006: 31
2005: 39
2004: 47
2003: 33
2002: 27

Robbery
2006: 49
2005: 34
2004: 26
2003: 38
2002: 40

Aggravated assault
2006: 188
2005: 223
2004: 184
2003: 236
2002: 172

Burglary
2006: 549
2005: 653
2004: 619
2003: 570
2002: 667

Theft and larceny
2006: 1,442
2005: 1,014
2004: 1,239
2003: 1,045
2002: 1,105

Motor vehicle theft
2006: 129
2005: 150
2004: 104
2003: 114
2002: 125

Source: Clovis Police Department