Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Robbery squad evolving

Drug crimes force city to expand holiday effort

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati's Robbery Task Force is hardly just about robbery anymore.

The police department's annual holiday effort, a tradition for more than two decades, kicks off Friday. But it has grown - about 100 officers are involved this time, including a dozen borrowed from patrol - and evolved into both a centralized squad and neighborhood units to focus on robberies, street-level drug dealing and thefts from vehicles.

"It might be a misnomer to call it Robbery Task Force," said Capt. Richard Schmalz, the District 4 commander on the job 37 years. "Crime has progressed and become more complicated. It's all hand-in-hand with drugs now."

As the holiday season starts and people carry more cash and credit cards, police warn this is prime season for thieves. Even change left in your car ashtray, officers say, can be attractive enough for someone to break a car window.

Among the spots officers will target over the next five weeks:

• For thefts from vehicles: around Mount Adams bars; Main Street bar district in Over-the-Rhine; in Corryville around the University of Cincinnatis; Glenway Crossing and Western Hills Plaza.

• For street robberies: Warsaw Avenue and lower Glenway Avenue on the city's west side; Corryville, and Over-the-Rhine.

• For drugs: Walnut Hills; along Reading Road in Avondale and Bond Hill; parts of Madisonville and Evanston; West Eighth Street and Elberon Avenue in Price Hill; the Fay Apartments, and Harrison and McHenry avenues in Westwood.

As part of the task force, supervisors will meet daily to compare notes and review reports from previous shifts, looking for trends. They'll also work more closely with undercover officers, picking their brains for possible suspects in identified crimes.

"We know that drugs drive most of the violence, so we need to know what intelligence is out there on some of these people," said Capt. Paul Humphries, who will oversee the centralized unit.

Chief Tom Streicher plans to address the group this afternoon to outline the goals of the task force.

"We're just looking at this as an opportunity to go out there and make an impression,'' Streicher said. "Experience just tells us that this kind of an effort makes an impact on the level of crime all over the city.''


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