MODESTO — Modesto Police Chief Galen Carroll has implemented a plan he said will make the department more accountable and strengthen the connection between officers and the people they protect.
He spoke about the plan Tuesday afternoon before the Modesto Rotary Club during a luncheon at the DoubleTree Hotel.
Much like the way his former department in Long Beach is organized, Carroll last week assigned a lieutenant, or area commander, to each quadrant of the city.
Those lieutenants, who in the past spent much of their time in the office, will be out on the streets more, using crime data to target hot spots and address spikes in particular types of crime. Sergeants in each quadrant will work more closely with the public by attending at least part of every Neighborhood Watch meeting to hear concerns directly from the people living in those areas.
Before, lieutenants were in charge of the whole city, so no one person was accountable to address the problems in a particular area.
"When everyone is responsible, no one truly is responsible," Carroll said. "If there is a problem in one area, (commanders) don't have to be the loudest, squeakiest wheel for the whole city; they have to be the loudest, squeakiest wheel for that particular area."
In the north part of the city, McHenry Avenue separates the east and the west, with Scenic Drive and Needham Street being the southern borders. To the south, Highway 99 divides the west and the south.
The boundaries are not new for patrol officers; the biggest difference, Carroll said, is that lieutenants will direct officers and resources to affect those areas under their command and be accountable for crime, quality of life, community policing and outreach in those areas.
Within the quadrants, officers soon will have access to software that compiles data from dispatched calls and uses an algorithm that predicts where crimes will occur.
The department has the predictive policing software now, and it will be operational in a few months, Carroll said.
About the same time, Carroll plans to deploy the department's new police abatement vehicle an armored truck that will be equipped with a license plate reader and cameras and parked in problem neighborhoods.
The truck was Ceres Police Department's old SWAT truck; Ceres donated it at no cost to Modesto.
"We will park it in front of nuisance properties where there is drug dealing and gang members," Carroll said.
It will not only act as a visual deterrent, but the license plate readers which can record up to 1,000 plates in a minute will keep track of who is coming and going. If there is a shooting on the street or burglaries in the neighborhood, evidence will be captured and recorded.
Area commanders as well as captains have been assigned police departments to visit around the state to learn what they are doing differently and decide whether the practice could work in Modesto.
So far, commanders have visited Long Beach and Irvine, and visits are scheduled in San Jose, Sacramento and Citrus Heights.
Mayor Garrad Marsh has floated the idea of putting a public safety tax on the November ballot, but has provided few details. Because of that, Carroll said he doesn't have a plan for what that money could provide, but knows in general what he would do with more officers. He would beef up patrol to combat gang violence and add more motorcycle officers for traffic enforcement.
"Criminals drive cars, too, and they don't like being pulled over," he said.
Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2366. Follow her on Twitter, @ModestoBeeCrime