New patrol unit busy in first month

‘Whatever their little mission is, the Directed Patrol Unit has the flexibility to address it in the best possible way.’ — Police Chief Lee Gavin

By J. PATRICK PEPPER
Times-Herald Newspapers
HEIGHTS — A new police unit focused on stopping crimes before they happen has been busy in a little less than a month on the job.
Already, the Directed Patrol Unit, or DPU, has made 18 drug arrests and issued 13 curfew violation tickets since being implemented June 1.
The unit was formed to help combat emergent crime patterns with a targeted response. In contrast to regular patrols, which respond to calls for service, the DPU takes its cues from crime data and intelligence provided by other units. That proactive approach allows the unit flexibility to tackle more police work in the areas that need it most.
“Really, what it is is the heavy enforcment crew,” Police Chief Lee Gavin said. “When they check in, they’ll look at the calls from the night before, review data from our command staff and determine the problem areas.”
The DPU consists of three patrol officers and a lieutenant who operate under the direction of Gavin and Mayor Daniel Paletko. The unit works evenings and nights. They can operate undercover – wearing plain clothes and driving unmarked cars – or in uniform.
“If we have an area where we want to provide a more visible police presence, these guys give us the ability to do saturation patrol,” Gavin said. “If we have something where we want them to be a little more stealth, they just wear there street clothes.
“Whatever their little mission is, the DPU has the flexibility to address it in the best possible way.”
In the early going, DPU activities have focused on issues mostly related to young offenders. The first two weeks of June were spent policing schools as students were released for summer vacation.
The next week the patrol focused on vandalism and after-hours loitering at city parks. One problem the unit dealt with was a late-night street hockey game behind City Hall that was keeping surrounding residents awake.
And with the Fourth of July on Saturday, the DPU spent last week snuffing out illegal fireworks sales. While the department always has had a zero-tolerance policy on fireworks, the in-and-out nature of regular patrol activities limits the amount of front-line checks police can do, Gavin said.
But the DPU’s focused efforts allowed the group to go from business to business to make sure that all of their fireworks sellers were in compliance. In one case, the unit seized a $3,000 cache of illegal fireworks.
Although the DPU has focused primarily on misdemeanor offenses so far, their assignments have been a product of circumstance. Gavin said the key to the unit’s effectiveness is its adaptability, and that in the future it could see action on more serious crime patterns, such as burglaries and robberies. Or if the department knows where they need to wait to pick up a fugitive, the DPU can head the stakeout, he said. “The DPU gives us another tool to fight crime,” Gavin said. “Other cities have had them for a while, and I think this will prove to be a benefit for the community.”