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Officers have criminal data at their fingertips

By Joe Buttweiler. Second in a series.

Read Part 1: Online maps help citizens, police track crime
Read Part 3: Cameras discourage crime in, near liquor store

McKelvey with crime map
McKelvey with crime map

MASON CITY – The Mason City Police Department’s online crime mapping system Click here is one of two relatively new computerized data systems for tracking criminal activity in the area, said Capt. Mike McKelvey.

The other is the Law Enforcement Technology Group, or LETG system, which gives Mason City and Clear Lake police and the Cerro Gordo County Sheriff’s Department a wide variety of information about suspects via terminals in squad cars.

For instance, by typing a suspect’s name into the LETG system, which has been in place since 2008, the officer can tell if the person is wanted by police, has been picked up or questioned before or has a valid license.

Previously, if an officer wanted to check a license or do a warrant check he or she had to radio in to dispatch and it took five or six minutes, McKelvey said. “Now they can check in five to 10 seconds.”

Eventually squads may be equipped with license plate-recognition cameras that would send a near-instantaneous message to the officer if the registration were expired or the vehicle stolen, he said.

McKelvey said the LETG system also can host photos of suspects and video footage, photos from crime scenes, names of witnesses to crimes, and information on criminal convictions and pending charges.

The LETG and crime mapping systems, along with a map that identified 88 neighborhoods in the city, help with the department’s community-oriented policing efforts, which seek to quell problems in specific areas and respond to neighborhood concerns.

McKelvey touched on a couple higher-profile examples in the past year of responding to problems. One was a citizen request for speed limit enforcement on First Street Northwest last summer when motorists were avoiding a nearby section of Highway 122. Officers monitored the traffic and had the Engineering Department do speed monitoring. Overall, the findings showed there really wasn’t as much of a speed problem as residents perceived, McKelvey said.

northside_liquorOn the city’s North End there was a period last year in which there was a shooting May 16, a stabbing May 23, and a fight May 27 at Northside Liquor, 1303 N. Federal Ave.

Some of the neighbors cited traffic into and out of a house on 13th Street and loitering in the liquor store parking lot as sources of problems in the area.

Police talked with owners and residents of the home and with managers of the liquor store, McKelvey said. “They asked customers not to loiter. The liquor store took responsibility and it helped.”

While many assumed the spate of incidents were related, police determined they were not, but merely several incidents that happened in the same area in the same month.

The North End Partnership Association was involved, and officers working the area were encouraged to get out of their squads and talk to area residents to hear their concerns, McKelvey said. “They really value that face-to-face contact.”

Rhonda True of the North End Partnership Association said McKelvey and other police met with neighbors after the incidents to get to know each other and discuss reporting of suspected criminal activity.

“It was reassuring to the residents that they were trying to decrease the criminal activity. Things, I think, have worked out very well.”

McKelvey said it would be nice to do more foot patrols more often in the city, but with limited staffing ñ the 49-member department usually has only four to six officers covering the city per shift ñ it’s usually not practical.

Tomorrow: Cameras discourage crime in, near liquor store

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