Week 4; “Our very own CSU”

May 3rd, 2012 at 4:31 pm by under COPS 101

This week at the Civilian Academy, we went over the investigations divisions of the Terre Haute Police Department.

Assist Chief Shawn Keen started the evening to go over some big numbers. Until 2007, there was no division between property crimes and violent crimes. All investigations in those two areas went to one group of 11 detectives. Back then, we were reporting high property crime numbers. I take that back, not just high, exceptionally high. For that reason, the department looked at some restructuring options.

Now, the investigations unit is divided into seven sub-groups instead of just six, with a division of property crimes and violent crimes.  When looking at our numbers, it seems to have decreased our reports of property crimes, but also our cases cleared. Since 2007, property crimes are down about 20 percent. This is something the department is very proud to say, and as a citizen of Terre Haute, I am as well.


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We also learned about a city ordinance that allows police to track stolen items with online software. This helps them located things that are sold at pawn shops and second hand stores that were stolen. According to THPD, this ordinance definitely helps in the recovering of stolen items.

Violent Crimes
Violent Crimes include homicides, rapes, robberies, elevated batteries, and anything involving a gun or deadly weapon. This unit has five detectives and a Sergeant. In 2011, the unit had 150 cases. That number is down drastically since ’04 when 336 violent crimes were reported.

One thing of major note in the violent crimes division is that we learned they often have a drug link. Keep that in mind, and keep reading.

Property Crimes
This unit has ten detectives. Here’s how they break down: Eight work primarily burglaries and thefts (Four on the north end of town, Four on the south end) and two detectives on auto theft/thefts from vehicles.

An interesting thing about auto theft is that it ties in to your insurance. If you think about it, insurance rates are partially based on where you live. These crime numbers directly impact you. (We also learned that the FBI considers mopeds, lawn mowers, and motorized scooters as vehicles.)

Something that came up in the conversation about property crimes is that they often have a link to drugs.  See a trend here?

Vigo County Drug Task Force
This group has quite the gig. It’s a collaboration of efforts from the Terre Haute Police Department, the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department, the Seelyville Police Department, and the Vigo County Prosecutors Office.

They investigate the sales and distribution of illegal narcotics within Vigo County. If you consider my notes earlier about property crimes and violent crimes, you know that these guys have their hands full. The growing drug problem in this area is impossible to ignore.

The investigation and dismantling of methamphetamine labs takes up a big portion of their time. No one wants to live next door to one of these things, so when the task force knows they can clean one up they take the opportunity.

Two officers are in charge of managing a prescription drug diversion program to fight that continued battle.

Beginning in 2009, the V.C.D.T.F. started the highway and parcel interdiction. This is where they hit the streets and pull over vehicles to check for drugs. Some major hits they’ve had since then include 2,000 lbs. of marijuana, 4.4 lbs. of cocaine, and $82,000 in drug money. These items aren’t always coming to Vigo County to stay. Sometimes, the task force nabs them on a long cross country drive.

In a case covering two years, the task force assisted in Operation Ice Box which was a meth ring that led to federal charges for more than two dozen people.

The most common drugs seen here in Vigo County are methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana. The less commonly used drugs include heroin (This drug is attributed to individuals important here due to the nearby federal prison.), ecstasy, mushrooms, and acid.

Crime Scene Unit
A sergeant and two detectives work in this unit, and they put their time in. They document scenes of all times at all times. In 2011, they had 955 events total.

They pick up physical evidence, biological evidence, and DNA evidence.

The Terre Haute Crime Lab is pretty impressive. They develop and examine fingerprints, photo prints, marijuana tests, cell phone forensics, and computer forensics.

It’s impossible to imagine how these three individuals on THPD think. They arrive to a scene and have a million things going through their head that they need to look at, check, photograph, find, and consider. It’s amazing to hear them talk about their thought process. (It sounds a lot like the vocabulary you hear on television.)

In 2012, they already have 442 entries, so they are on course of a really busy, record year.

Next up, we’re off to the training center for some driving techniques. It should be quite a sight.

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