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$300,000 grant to study police strategy in Urbana

The strategies will be implemented from January through August. (WCCU,WICS)

The Urbana Police Department, Police Training Institute, and University of Illinois are teaming up to look at policing strategies that aim to reduce crime in “hot spots.”

These are the areas in a community that either have the highest crime rate or have the most emergency calls made from a single area.

A grant of more than $300,000 has been awarded to the collaboration from the National Institute of Justice to conduct a study on these hot spots.

"It seems like most of them are simply putting out more cops in that area, wanting more police officers in that area,” Police Training Institute Director Michael Schlosser said. “And it has been proven to reduce crime somewhat, but it also has a tendency to over police a certain area."

Schlosser said this type of over policing in an area can backfire, causing communities to feel singled out by the police. With the grant, Schlosser will help look into the importance of community trust in the police while trying to reduce crime.

The research project is pending Urbana City Council’s approval, which will vote on the issue Monday. If passed, three different policing strategies will be implemented in three Urbana “hot spots,” identified by the Urbana Police Department. The strategies will be implemented from January through August.

"We'll have a control group, we'll have a directed patrol group where it's just going to be increased officer presence, and then the third will be community policing,” Urbana Crime Analyst Melissa Haynes said. “So they'll receive the same directed patrol, but then there'll be a community policing officer that is assigned to that area that will go out and build relationships with people within the community."

The third type of policing, which is based on community relations, involves officers getting to know community members on a personal level. This could range from playing with neighborhood kids or attending community meetings.

Schlosser predicts a stronger relationship between the community and police will more effectively reduce crime in hot spots because of the collaboration between both sides.

"I think that helps solve the problems because we can come up with other solutions to solving crime, as opposed to just arresting people and putting them in jail,” Schlosser said.

After August, researchers will survey the communities where each policing strategy took place to see if officers were able to builder trust and what impact this has on crime rates.

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