This is the second part in a series of stories on the year ahead. Previous installments are available at bristolpress.com.
Police in 2018 have two distinct goals: to improve community relations and cut down on car thefts.
“The goal is always to strengthen our relationship with the community,” said Police Chief Brian Gould.
Police do this by sitting in on regular meetings with local groups, like the West End and Forestville associations. They also participate in charitable acts, and also put officers on assignments that allow them to bond with city residents.
“We want to foster that relationship with the community,” said Lt. Richard Guerrera.
Each year police participate in a number of different fundraisers and charitable events. These include Tip a Cop, a car show and the Special Olympics Torch Run, all of which benefit the Special Olympics of Connecticut, and the annual Shop with a Cop program, hosted by the REACH Foundation. They also host a drug take-back program, a blood drive and a toy drive, which contributes to local families in need around Christmas time.
With all those events, the police continue to work with police explorers too. They teach them the ins and outs of police work and what it means to give back to the community.
Since becoming police chief in early 2016, Gould has put an extra emphasis on community policing. He is doing this by continuing the two-man walking beat downtown, and assigning one officer over the summer this past year to take the “Rockwell Park beat.” This beat allowed Officer George Franek to drive through the park on a utility vehicle and bond with children and families.
“We want to continue all the things we do that build trust,” Gould said. “The idea is to build trust and show that we’re about more than just arresting people.”
Police throughout 2018 are also hoping to cut down on an uptick in car thefts that have occurred in recent years. According to police, Bristol saw about a 12 percent increase of vehicles stolen in 2015, with 117 reports, compared to that of the year before. In 2016, this number again increased to 126 - about a 7 percent increase. End of year numbers were not immediately available for 2017, but as of early November, a projected increase was a real possibility.
In response, police have formed a special detail designed to curtail this uptick - a trend many cities and towns in Connecticut are seeing. The Auto Theft Detail is a team of multiple officers who patrol hot spots in the city during peak crime hours.
The auto theft detail was the idea of Capt. Edward Spyros, who has said he’s hoping 2018 will finally bring fewer car thefts than the preceding year.
Cutting down on drug sales and usage in the city is another goal of police. While the opioid epidemic has slowed somewhat, overdoses continued to be a problem for cities like Bristol. One creative way Bristol police have tried to tackle the issue is by getting a detective aboard a special task force that targets drug sales. Police already have two men on a Drug Enforcement Administration task force, but they recently were able to get a detective on the new Connecticut Cyber Crime Task Force. This task force targets crime committed through the dark web.
Detective Lt. Kevin Morrell, head of Bristol’s detective division, said criminals have begun selling drugs through the dark web using bitcoin - a form of electronic currency. While there haven’t been any cases documented in which a supplier was selling drugs from Bristol through this method, Morrell stated.
“We believe drugs purchased through the dark web are being sold in Bristol,” said Morrell. “We try to be proactive if we see a trend coming.”
The benefits of having officers on statewide task forces include Bristol cases if it is requested, being taken by the task force for investigation. Local police also split asset forfeiture funds the task force acquires.
“They can also guide us as to where to go in an investigation,” Morrell said.