The city of Oswego has recently implemented its newly established Anti-Crime Team. For the last eight months, three officers permanently assigned to the unit have been working to fight the ongoing drug problem in Oswego.
Capt. Michael Beckwith, public information officer for the Oswego Police Department, said that after the new police chief, Tory DeCaire was instated in June, he saw that the rise in illegal drug activity needed to be addressed.
“There is a slight increase in minor crimes and quality of life issues, but the Anti-Crime Team was not implemented because of some huge spike in crimes,” Beckwith said. “We wanted to get in there and stop these minor crimes from happening before we saw a huge spike in criminal activity within the city.”
At first the team was used occasionally for specific concerns, and then DeCaire realized the usefulness of having an Anti-Crime Team which could combat the ongoing drug issue.
Beckwith used the “Broken Windows Theory,” still taught to cadets within the police academy, to explain the drug issue. The theory states that bigger crimes always start out with smaller ones and if the smaller crimes can be targeted early on, than the larger problems will decrease.
Beckwith explained that most individuals involved with illegal drug activity are causing a lot of the other crimes within the city.
“The users of these drugs are going to utilize other crimes to get their drugs,” Beckwith said. A lot of burglaries and car robberies happen because of the fact that these drug users look for valuable items to steal and pawn off for cash later used to buy drugs.
Right now the Anti-Crime Team is made up of three members who recruit more officers when needed for larger investigations.
At the start of these larger investigations, the team looks at information brought forth by civilians.
Depending on the nature of the information, they may be able to act immediately or apply for a search warrant.
The team also specializes in undercover work, which is used extensively within the team.
Though officers do not wear a uniform while undercover, they establish their street creditability by often times wearing a badge around their neck on belt.
Many times an undercover officer may be mistaken as a civilian and when a patrol officer sees an undercover in a dispute with a perpetrator they may intervene thinking these are two civilians fighting.
This problem has occurred in larger departments but Beckwith guaranteed that because the Oswego Police Department is a small department everyone knows each other and it has not been a problem.
Within bigger departments, a color of the day will be worn by undercover agents to signify their statues to patrol officers.
Beckwith could not elaborate on the undercover aspect of the Anti-Crime Team in order to ensure the safety of its officers.
Unlike normal police officers, members of the Anti-Crime Team are able to focus on one particular issue and formulate an investigation around it.
The team does not go on normal patrols, and although many of the pieces of equipment they use are similar to what regular officers would use, the team works closely with surveillance equipment.
Betty Gray, Oswego’s Neighborhood Watch coordinator, has noticed a decrease in the amount of crime since the Anti-Crime Team has been established.
“We mostly get cases involving car burglaries by 16 and 17-year-olds.” Grey said. “They need the money and will take whatever you have in your car.”
“Chief DeCaire has made a lot of progress and improvement for the city since he has become our new chief,” Gray said. “I applaud him for doing that. He has changed a lot of things since he has come along.”
Gray explained that since DeCaire has been chief there are a lot more police officers who patrol residential neighborhoods and many who patrol on foot.
“The police department in Oswego is so amazing, they are working with us to stop crime,” Gray said.
Gray urged residents, especially college students, to never walk alone and if you see a crime in progress call the police, do not handle the situation. “Call 911, working with the police department will help this community,” Grey said.
Oswego Neighborhood Crime Watch has its own website where residence can anonymously report crime they have witnessed in the area.
Beckwith acknowledged college students who often times find themselves within the drug and alcohol scene around the city.
“Anybody who has ever been arrested for committing a crime never thought they would get caught, you never know,” Beckwith said. “The Anti-Crime Team is out there.”