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Crime buster system unveiled at neighborhood meeting

May 17, 2012

by Jaired Crofut

Around 15 to 20 residents attended the monthly Pine Hills Neighborhood Association meeting on Thursday night where the city police department’s Lt. Mike Tremblay of the Neighborhood Engagement Unit and  Officer Steven Smith, the public information officer,  addressed the council about a new neighborhood communication system called Nexle.

Residents listen to Ptl. Steven Smith on proposed Nexle system/ Jaired Crofut

Nexle – software program – notifies subscribers of neighborhood news through text messaging and email from the police department. The police department would use the system to inform residents of events in the city such as highway closings and burglaries, a pre-emptive effort at stopping many crimes before they happen.
Smith also said that one of the biggest problems the Albany Police Department hopes to address through Nexle is the recent string of car larcenies that have plagued the city in the last few months.
The program, which is an effort by the police department to better communicate with the community about crime and statistics, was met with mixed reactions.

“The downside could be that it gives people, residents a negative notion about how much crime is actually going on, said Virginia Hammer. “It seems to me it could set up this feeling of–oh my god–we’re living in a crime ridden area.”

Hammer is worried that the program may not accurately represent the Pine Hills neighborhood and that because of the negative image could potentially cast, people will be discouraged from moving into the neighborhood.

“We want people to realize that there is a positive and upside from living in the city, and that it is not all bad news,” said Hammer.
Despite worries that the program will misrepresent and potentially exaggerate crime in the neighborhood, others such as the president of the Pine Hills Neighborhood association, Todd Hunsinger, expressed enthusiasm toward the project.


“We’re very concerned about the quality and safety of our neighborhood,” said Hunsinger.
Nexle will also offer residents 28-day crime reports that include serious crimes such as burglaries, arson, and murder.
Despite the many positive effects Nexle may have on crime in the Pine Hills area, the program may be ineffective if people are unaware of its existence.
“In order for this to work, we need people,” said Smith.

Earlier this year, the police tried the program in zone 17 of the Helderberg district but found it ineffective. This is largely attributed to the fact that few people heard about it, hence the reason why the two officers were addressing the Pine Hills Neighborhood Association meeting Thursday. The Pine Hills Association meetings are generally among the most well-attended in the city.

“We try to do it face to face first, and be able to actively explain what the program is first,” said Smith.

Albany Police also hope to involve local colleges in the area such as the University at Albany and The College of Saint Rose because students who vacation on Spring break are often the victims of a lot of apartment burglaries.

“You’ve seen the streets during Spring break—you can park anywhere you’d like because everybody goes home,” said Smith.

The program originated in Los Angeles and the idea was first pitched locally at a Helderberg Community meeting when a local beat officer suggested that it could help fight crime.

“This is in its infancy right now, we hope to expand the program,” said Smith. “We’re trying to close the gap between the community and the police department.”

In the past few years the Albany Police Department has implemented the community officer program, in which a specific officer is assigned to each neighborhood. The officer patrols his or her assigned community on a regular basis and becomes better acquainted with residents.

“We’ll all find out together going forward how effective it is,” said Hunsinger.

Also mentioned at the meeting was the fact that the Pine Hills Neighborhood will be assigned a new beat officer named Cliff Young, who has worked for the police department for 17 years. -30-



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