The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing identified best policing practices and offered recommendations on how those practices can promote effective crime reduction while building public trust. One of the report’s six main pillars is “Community Policing and Crime Reduction”. This pillar focuses on the importance of working with residents and stakeholders to work together to solve community problems and to increase community engagement. Community policing hinges on making and reinforcing positive relationships with the members of the community the police department serves. The police department embraced the community policing philosophy well before it became an established 21st Century Policing pillar. While our Safe Neighborhood Bureau is sometimes identified as the face of the police department’s community policing initiatives, community policing is ingrained throughout the culture of all the bureaus of the police department, not just one particular bureau.
For years, the officers of the Princeton Police Department have focused much of their efforts on programs that foster the police/community relationship. These programs include, but are not limited to, the annual winter coat drive, vacant house checks, Operation Blue Angel, Operation Chill, Community Night Out, the Wheels Rodeo, and the Youth Police Academy.
A new program was introduced this year by the Traffic Safety Bureau titled, “Princeton PD Provides Your DD”. Sgt. Michael Strobel, the commander of the Traffic Safety Bureau, was the brainchild behind the program. The new program is designed to decrease driving under the influence. The police department is offering free late-night on-demand transportation through a newly created partnership with the rideshare service Uber. This innovative new program will be available at participating locations throughout Princeton. To take advantage of this service, simply scan the QR code that is posted at the participating establishments and the $15 discounted ride will automatically be uploaded to your Uber account. The discount code will be valid on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings between 8 pm-2 am, requiring a drop-off location within the town of Princeton. Look for the “Princeton PD Provides Your DD” posters at your favorite restaurant or bar and help eliminate driving under the influence. This program is made possible through donations made to Princeton PBA 130.
Another exciting new program the police department started this year was the Citizen’s Police Academy. The Princeton Police Department recently held an 8-week Citizen Police Academy which was held at our police headquarters and training center. The purpose of the Citizen Police Academy was to give the public a working knowledge and understanding of the operations of our police department and law enforcement in general. Some topics of instruction included organizational structure, use of force, police response, arrest, search and seizure, motor vehicle stops, and officer safety. A ride-along program will be implemented to allow each participant to observe patrol functions first-hand. It is our intention that the graduates of the Princeton Police Citizen Police Academy will gain an awareness and appreciation of the services we provide. We also hope to collectively create an even stronger partnership between our police department and the community we serve. This successful event is something we plan on conducting yearly to continue familiarizing our citizens with the day-to-day operations of our police department.
The 21st Century Policing Task Force identified the need for police agencies to establish a culture of transparency. While transparency comes in many forms, one of them is identifying and reporting crime trends. One of the crime trends the police department has seen an increase in lately is catalytic converter thefts. The increase in these types of thefts is not just a Princeton trend, but a statewide and nationwide increase. A catalytic converter is part of your vehicle’s exhaust system that contains certain expensive precious metals that currently have a high market value. They are being stolen at a high rate because they can be removed from a vehicle very quickly and once they are removed from the vehicle, they can be sold for a several hundred dollars. For many cars, it can cost over $1,000 to replace the stolen catalytic converter. In order to help decrease the number of thefts and to protect your vehicle, there are several ways to deter these types of incidents. If you have access to a garage, park your vehicle there. Most vehicles that are targeted are parked in the driveway or on the street. Those without a garage should try to park in a well-lit area and, if possible, in an area with security surveillance cameras. Additionally, some retailers sell alarm systems and other anti-theft type devices.
As stated earlier, the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing identified six pillars to help increase the relationship between law enforcement and the community. The six pillars are Building Trust and Legitimacy, Policy and Oversight, Technology and Social Media, Community Policing and Crime Reduction, Officer Training and Education, and Officer Safety and Wellness. This task force essentially wrote the playbook on how to effectively foster positive relationships between all the stakeholders. The Princeton Police Department had already established many aspects of these pillars prior to the Task Force’s report. As part of the community policing pillar, the Princeton Police Department has a well-established community policing culture within the organization. To further promote community policing, the Princeton PD Provides Your DD program and the Citizen’s Police Academy were born. These two programs will continue to foster the positive relationship the Princeton Police Department has with the Princeton Community.
To promote transparency, the police department regularly reports the crimes and incidents that are impacting the community. The police department has seen an increase in catalytic converter thefts and wants to spread the word to decrease the number of thefts we are investigating. By working cohesively together, the police department and the community can reduce incidents such as driving under the influence and catalytic converter thefts.
Captain Christopher Tash is a 25-year police veteran, with 23 of those years in the Princeton Police Department. He currently serves as the Department’s Executive Officer whose duties include being the Public Information Officer, the Internal Affairs Commander, coordinating the efforts of the department division commanders (Lieutenants), and directly assisting the Chief of Police in the development, administration, coordination and implementation of department policies, procedures, programs and activities.