The Redlands Police Department last week was named the recipient of the 2015 RISE Award for Agency of the Year from TASER and PoliceOne.

The department received the award for its innovative use of GPS technology and community collaboration to address crime trends in the community. As a result of the program, RPD has made 161 arrests for crimes such as armed robbery, vehicle burglary, commercial burglary, metal theft, bike theft, laptop theft, vending machine theft, tire theft, credit card skimming, construction site theft, UPS parcel theft, and wire theft. RPD has even used the technology to help locate a serial bank robbery suspect. In its award citation, TASER and PoliceOne noted that “the program didn’t just target and minimize theft, but put career criminals behind bars.”

Following a reduction in the number of sworn personnel during the recession that began in 2007, the RPD began researching alternatives to traditional policing methods to address an increase in the number of vehicle burglaries. Using a highly effective and affordable GPS tracking device, the department partnered with various residents and businesses to deploy “bait” vehicles around the City in locations prone to vehicle burglaries.

Inside a locked car, officers placed an item which has a small GPS device with the capability of being deployed for up to 20 months without a recharge discreetly hidden inside. Police parked the vehicles at “hot spot” locations identified by the department’s crime analysis unit.

Over a span of four years of deploying the devices to address crime trends in the area, RPD has made 161 arrests directly attributable to the program.

On the first day of deploying a “bait” car at a local fitness center parking lot, two suspects smashed the window of the car and stole items, including one with the tracking device hidden inside. Within minutes, police were able to apprehend the two suspects and solve a string of vehicle burglaries that had been occurring at the location. After experiencing immediate success, authorities began to expand the use of the technology to address literally every crime trend that arose in the community.

An analysis indicated a 14 percent decrease in the number of reported vehicle burglaries in 2011 as compared to 2010 in Redlands, with an added 5 percent decrease from 2011 to 2012. In 2013, the city experienced an additional 2.8 percent decrease. In 2014, the vehicle burglary rate decreased an additional 2 percent. Vehicle burglary experienced an overall 18.4 percent decrease from 2010 to 2012. During that time, the national property crime rate, which includes vehicle burglary and thefts from vehicle, increased 11 percent between 2010 and 2011. Although it is sometimes difficult to identify reasons for the fluctuations in the crime rate, the deployment of the GPS tracking devices in Redlands has been the singular substantive change in the target locations and police efforts to combat these crimes.

The program has been highly successful in targeting career criminals. A 2013 Command College research project conducted by RPD Lt. Travis Martinez revealed that out of the first 79 adults arrested as a result of using the trackers, 77 had been previously arrested an average of 16.4 times. Twenty-four of those arrests were on some type of supervised release. Twelve of those subjects had stolen property on them from other thefts when they were arrested. Nineteen had warrants.

In September 2013, in response to an increase in residential burglary, RPD implemented “While You’re Away,” an electronic home surveillance program. Before leaving for any extended period of time, residents can arrange to check out a GPS tracking device that can be hidden on commonly targeted items of value in the home. The device is activated once the resident leaves on vacation. If the device is moved an alert is sent to police dispatch. Residents can complete an application by visiting RPD’s website at www.redlandspolice.org.

The cost of each device is $400 with a $17 per month cell service fee. RPD has discovered a force multiplier that allows virtually 24/7 electronic surveillance on targeted property for only $1.65 per day the first year and 55 cents a day every following year. RPD is currently deploying 27 devices with 20 of them purchased using asset forfeiture funds. The other seven devices have been privately funded.

Anyone with information regarding crime or suspicious activity is asked to contact Redlands Police Dispatch at (909) 798-7681. Anonymous tips can be provided by texting 274637 using the keyword “REDTIP.” Certain non-emergency crimes may also be reported online using the Redlands Police Department’s CopLogic reporting system at cityofredlands.org/police/report.

Redlands Police press releases and other information are available on the Redlands Police Department Facebook page at www.facebook.com/redlandspolicedepartment or on the Department website at www.redlandspolice.org.

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