Dear Answer Man, Could you ask the Chief of Police of Rochester why they don’t consider parking an unused marked squad car out front of places like Walmart to deter thefts? The police are there on a daily basis taking theft reports and this might deter thefts and free them up for other more important crimes in the city. This would seem like a good use of taxpayers resources at a minimum cost. I have seen this done in larger cities and it seems to help. -- J.M.
Dear J.M., I had one of my many trusted minions reach out to the Rochester Police Department to get to the bottom of your query. As is usually the case, what I got back was a nice pile of tasty knowledge nuggets. Capt. John Sherwin took a few minutes out of his day to serve them up for us.
A few years ago, police department also saw the need to do something different when it came to shoplifting calls at the big-box stores. Fast forward to today, Sherwin said in most cases where a store's loss prevention worker has has made an apprehension for theft, police are not going to the store. Instead, citations are issued after police review reports filed by the loss prevention worker.
There are instances when police do respond to stores for shoplifting calls, like when a person who is being detained has an arrest warrant, if they try to flee or if the person cannot be identified.
Sherwin said those steps have reduced the department's calls for service.
But even more simply, the department doesn't have unused squads that can be parked in front of a store.
"There is very little downtime for our squad cards," Sherwin said. "They are 20,000 to 30,000 mile-a-year cars with a lot of work hours on them."
You may also see a squad car because a business can go through the city to hire a police officer for a specific purpose.
And now to acknowledge the reality we are living in -- the pandemic has also changed the police response. Patrol officers are actually spending more time outside of these box stores as many have taken to "attending" the department's daily briefing from their squad cars parked in store parking lots, according to Sherwin.
"Since the shelter in place and the state of emergency declarations went out in mid-March, we've made it a considerable point to direct our patrol staff to conduct community service checks and stops at our retail businesses that are open," Sherwin said.
From March 13 to April 20, the department has conducted 792 community service calls at open businesses.