BRISTOL - Police this year will once again try to curtail common holiday crime using extra patrols in key locations.
“Robberies and purse snatchings,” Capt. Edward Spyros said, when asked which types of crime typically spikes around the holidays.
Last year, a Spyros-led initiative put together a three-person team, called the Robbery Intervention Detail, that regularly patrolled parking lots and busy shopping plazas in a two-person rotation every night during peak times. Between Black Friday and Christmas, only one robbery was reported, compared to four in the same time period in 2015. Spyros said it’s hard to say definitively that the drop was caused by the special detail, but he’s sure the extra police presence helped at least somewhat.
“It’s difficult to measure when you don’t know what would have happened otherwise,” the captain said.
Nevertheless, police were happy with last year’s results and are doing something similar to RID again. Because of a special Auto Theft Detail - put together earlier this year in response to an increase in citywide car thefts - having three more officers solely dedicated to robbery patrol would put too much of a burden on staffing levels.
Instead, Spyros said, regularly scheduled extra patrols during evening hours will be frequently directed to visit hot spots for robberies.
“Dedicating officers to certain locations where there is a higher potential for a robbery to occur during the holidays will assist in deterring such a crime,” said Chief Brian Gould, adding that he was pleased with RID’s efforts last year. “We are looking to be proactive rather than reactive.”
Last year, all three RID officers received a letter of commendation after making eight arrests and responding to 342 calls for service.
Generally speaking, Spyros said, the holiday season makes some people more desperate for money. Additionally, criminals with theft on their minds know that the busy shopping season usually means people carry more money on them and makes victims more vulnerable.
Lt. Richard Guerrera said there are really only two ways to prevent purse snatchings and muggings: educating would-be victims and having omnipresence.
“You try to tell people to park in well-lit areas, keep your keys in your hand so you’re not wasting time trying to get into your car and to report suspicious activity,” the lieutenant said. “If you’re walking out to your car and you see someone hanging out near it, go back into the store, tell the manager or call us.”
Guerrera also said having a high visibility is one of the only effective ways to reduce crime in the short term.
“Being out there is usually enough to deter someone from committing a crime,” Guerrera said. “It’s definitely going to make them think twice about doing it right then and there.”
Justin Muszynski can be reached at 860-973-1809 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @muszynskiBP.