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Make a Call, Make a Difference

CoralSprings prides itself as being a great place to live, work and raise a family; however, like many affluent communities, rising crime rates, fueled by residential and vehicle burglaries became a major concern to the Coral Springs Police Department. Because of the rising crime rate, developing a crime reduction program that enlisted the help of our citizens became a major focus for the department’s command staff.

Located in the northwest portion of Broward County in Florida, Coral Springs is an upper-middle class community of approximately 125,000 residents. Coral Springs is well known for its schools, parks, gated communities, golf courses, and fine-manicured lawns. Unfortunately, to the underworld, the city was also known as a great place to commit crimes, such as residential and vehicle burglaries.

During the latter part of 2011, Deputy Chief Tony Pustizzi, now the current Police Chief, instituted the “Make a Call, Make a Difference” (MAC MAD) program in an effort to reduce residential and vehicle burglaries. This program was designed to enlist the cooperative efforts of the city’s citizens and break down barriers between the community and the police department.

The concept was simple in theory; ask your citizens to be the “eyes and ears” of the police department. The question facing the police department was: How can our department energize our citizens and create a true crime prevention partnership between the police department and the citizens they serve?

The Make a Call, Make a Difference program took an aggressive approach to solicit help from the city’s citizens and rebut the belief that the police are too busy to be bothered with calls of suspicious activity. The police department informed the citizens that the police wanted, and needed, their help.

The department used a variety of tactics, to help get the word out about the program. Funding for this program was obtained through forfeiture dollars and numerous ideas were set in motion to promote the program. Our officers spoke at community events and handed out giveaways advertising the Make a Call, Make a Difference program such as: refrigerator magnets, boxes of mints, jar openers, juvenile fingerprint ID kits, and flyers with the “Make a Call, Make a Difference” logo.

Promoting the program and enlisting the help of the citizens was paramount to the success of the program. The police department looked for ways to reach large numbers of citizens and inform them about the program. After brainstorming numerous ideas, the department decided to record a short public safety commercial and have that public safety commercial aired at local movie theaters prior to the start of feature films.

During this public safety commercial, Chief Tony Pustizzi reminded citizens to be vigilant and report suspicious activity. Chief Pustizzi reminded citizens that burglars often pose as solicitors or a person who mistakenly knocked on the wrong door, when they are checking to see if would-be victims are home. Chief Pustizzi ended the public safety commercial with the program’s motto “Make a Call, Make a Difference.”

The Coral Springs Police Department reached deep into their membership looking for computer savvy members who were well versed on the established social media outlets. The Command Staff sought the assistance of those members to promote the MAC MAD program through social media. The police department also utilized traditional media to advertise the MAC MAD program. Several articles were printed in the local newspaper that explain the MAC MAD program and spotlight cases where the program led to an arrest. Two of these articles included the arrest of a sexual battery suspect and four bank robbers who robbed a local bank and were apprehended by Coral Springs Officers after the department received a MAC MAD call from a citizen. 

The Coral Springs Police Department also utilized old-fashioned tactics to promote the program by enlisting police explorers and volunteers to saturate high-crime areas with informational flyers that were distributed door to door. When a particular section of the city was identified as a high-burglary area; that section was flooded with informational flyers reminding neighbors to report anything out of the ordinary to the police department. This tactic proved successful numerous times when suspicious activity was reported to the police department, which led to numerous arrests of suspected burglars.

The goal of the program was to get the whole community involved in some way, shape or form. The City’s Public Works Department placed MAC MAD banners at the entryways to the city. City employees also utilized electronic message boards in high-traffic areas to advertise the program and remind citizens to “Make a Call, Make a Difference.” The police department also partnered with local restaurants and supermarkets that allowed the department to display MAC MAD posters and distribute flyers.

One popular local restaurant agreed to send MAC MAD pamphlets home with their customer’s take-out food. Soon, posters, banners and informational flyers were everywhere in the City of Coral Springs. If a citizen went to their doctor for a check-up, it was highly likely that they would find information on the MAC MAD program on display in the waiting room. Members of the command staff felt that the flyers were great reading for a captive audience.

The department believed parents were a group that most likely cared about crime and safety, so informational flyers were distributed to parents as they dropped off, and picked up, their children for school. Officers partnered with preschools who handed out flyers during school orientation sessions. The school PTA organizations also distributed informational flyers during their meetings. Police explorers, volunteers and police employees distributed MAC MAD flyers at mass registrations for local youth sports leagues including soccer, basketball, flag and tackle football and cheerleading. Any idea was a good idea if it got the word out about the MAC MAD program.

The police department trained all city employees (parks and recreation personnel, code enforcement officers, and building department employees) to watch for, and call in, suspicious activity. Many of these employees spent a good deal of their time out in the field, so it only made sense to utilize the extra eyes and ears that were already out in the community. In that same vein, members of the department made a presentation to postal employees, providing them with examples of suspicious activity and asked them to be vigilant when delivering mail in city neighborhoods.

Patrol officers were asked to distribute informational flyers during their tour of duty. This became a great way for the police department to interact with members of the community in a positive manner. Even members of the department’s Traffic/Motor Unit, who are traditionally staunch ticket writers, would pass out a MAC MAD flyer in lieu of a ticket one day a week. 

Through these efforts, calls to the dispatch center for suspicious activities saw a dramatic increase. During the first eight months of the program, calls for suspicious person were up 49 percent, suspicious vehicle calls were up 57 percent, and suspicious incidents calls were up 33 percent when compared to the eight months prior to the start of the program.

The police department asked Coral Springs citizens to call the police when they observed suspicious activity, and they did. The calls from citizens led to an increase in arrests for burglary and burglary related crimes. A comparison of Uniform Crime Report (UCR) from 2010 to 2012 showed a 53 percent increase in residential burglary arrests. 

The success of the “Make a Call, Make a Difference” program did not go unnoticed and in October of 2012, members of the Coral Springs Police Department traveled to Orlando, Fla. to accept the Florida Crime Prevention Association’s 2012 Outstanding Crime Prevention Program of the Year award for the “Make a Call, Make a Difference” program.

The “Make a Call, Make a Difference” program continued to pay dividends into 2013. Although the Coral Springs Police Department implemented other crime reduction strategies, such as the creation of the Burglary Enforcement And Reduction (BEAR) Unit, there is no doubt that the “Make a Call, Make a Difference” program had a tremendous effect on the city’s crime rate.

By the end of 2013, the department saw an overall reduction in Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) rate of 14.5 percent, a 40 percent reduction in residential burglaries, and a 41 percent reduction in vehicle burglaries when compared to the 2011 (UCR) numbers. The “Make a Call, Make a Difference” program proved to be a success for the Coral Springs Police Department as both a crime fighting program as well as a community-oriented policing program.

 

Clyde Parry is the Deputy Chief of Operations, Coral Springs, Fla. Police Department. He may be reached at cperry@coralsprings.org.





Published in Law and Order, Oct 2014

Rating : 9.0


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