By Robert Mills, August 10, 2014, the Lowell Sun
Photo: Lowell Officers Christopher Bomil, left, and Jim Matos are among the District Response Officers who patrol on bikes for better community policing. SUN / JULIA MALAKIE
LOWELL -- Despite several high-profile shootings that put the city on edge, there was a 23 percent reduction in "quality of life" crimes tracked by Lowell police in the first six months of this year compared to last year.
Those statistics include a 14 percent decline in aggravated assaults, which include shootings.
Police Superintendent William Taylor said the decline includes a whopping 46 percent decrease in motor-vehicle break-ins so far this year compared to last year, as well as a 27 percent decrease in robberies, and a 59 percent decrease in vandalism.
"Quality of life" crimes include aggravated assault, burglary, theft from motor vehicles, disorderly conduct, vandalism, robbery and shoplifting. Police commanders meet every two weeks in "CompStat" meetings to review data on crimes in Lowell, and track those crimes closely.
"These are the crimes that we measure in our biweekly meetings," Taylor said. "These are the crimes that affect neighborhoods."
Taylor credited his officers and a Police Department reorganization that he initiated for contributing to the decline by putting more police officers on walking and bicycle patrols in city neighborhoods.
The reorganization saw Taylor change the department's structure to free up 24 officers who are now assigned teams known alternatively as either "district response teams" or "problem-solving teams."
The city was previously divided into three sectors by police, with each sector overseen by a captain. Under changes implemented by Taylor, there are now just two sectors, one covering downtown, Centralville, Pawtucketville and the Acre, and another covering the Highlands, Back Central, Belvidere and South Lowell.
Each sector is further divided into two districts, and each of the city's four districts has its own "problem-solving team," that patrols on foot or by bicycle whenever possible. The teams patrol specific areas, at specific times, in response to trends in crime identified by crime analysts.
"This type of a significant drop is a direct result of the men and women of the Lowell Police Department working hand in hand with our community, making sure they're in touch with the problems that are affecting the quality of life for the people who live, work and play in the city of Lowell," Taylor said.
Taylor said the decline comes even though the reorganization and problem-solving teams remain a work in progress.
The new problem-solving units still don't have individual lieutenants overseeing them, but will soon. Taylor also plans to assign an individual crime analyst to each unit so the individual units can monitor crime and watch for trends in the neighborhoods where they're assigned on a daily basis.
Instead of the command staff meeting with crime analysts every two weeks to review when and where crimes are occurring, the problem-solving teams will work with a crime analyst on a daily basis to monitor crimes in their neighborhood, and to recognize emerging trends early enough to prevent more crimes from occurring.
Taylor said the problem-solving teams will also be working to build communication with both residents and neighborhood groups, so they can be aware of and respond to the concerns of those who live or work in neighborhoods around Lowell.