Friday, March 30, 2012

Getting to Know the Department: COPPS

As I continue to share with you the duties and roles of police officers within the department, I would like to take the time to talk about our Community Policing and Problem Solving Officers (COPPS). There are eight COPPS officers assigned to four areas of the city.

The COPPS officers work with the community to build relationships and solve problems. They work with neighborhood leaders, apartment community managers, other city departments, social services agencies, and other police officers to identify long-term solutions to problems that trouble neighborhoods.

A typical day for a COPPS officer may include researching the previous night’s calls for service and reports taken by other police officers, meeting with an apartment community manager about an ongoing noise complaint issue with a tenant, and preparing for an upcoming safety presentation for a neighborhood association meeting.

COPPS officers are on the street every day answering calls for service, conducting traffic enforcement where residents have complained about traffic problems, and assisting other police officers in solving problems.

You might think of a COPPS officer as a police officer with a larger “tool belt” to solve problems. They all have strong professional partnerships with other agencies, including social services agencies. A recent example of the type of problem solving our COPPS officers perform was when Officer T. Bentch assisted an elderly resident with her living arrangements. Officer Bentch discovered the resident’s air conditioning was not working, there was no food in the home, and the resident said she had eaten her last meal the day before. The officer helped by facilitating the repair of her air conditioner, and by contacting a local food pantry for assistance.

With the summertime fast approaching, you will see COPPS officers on bicycles patrolling neighborhoods, apartment communities, and parks. The bicycles allow officers to patrol areas not readily accessible to traditional vehicle patrols, and they also allow better communication opportunities with residents.

If you would like more information about our COPPS officers, go to the city’s website (http://www.opkansas.org/) or contact police communications at 913-895-6300 and ask to be put in touch with the COPPS officer assigned to your neighborhood.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Use Caution Dealing with Door-to-Door Salespeople

Today, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe issued a reminder to area residents to be extra cautious when dealing with people soliciting door-to-door.

The Overland Park Police Department and the Leawood Police Department have received several complaints regarding companies from out of state selling door-to-door magazines to its citizens.

In order to do business in Johnson County, transient merchants must first obtain a special permit before selling items. They also are required to give each customer a three-day right to cancel after a sale is made. District Attorney Steve Howe says that often times these businesses conduct sales in Kansas for a short period of time and then leave the area, making cancellation or resolution of complaints difficult. In some cases, citizens pay for magazines or other merchandise and never receive the product.

Howe also asks if you, or anyone you know, purchased magazines or donated money to door-to-door salesmen affiliated with Allied Group, Allied Magazine Sales, Absolute Marketing or Marquis Fulfillment Agency within the last two weeks, to please contact the Johnson County District Attorney’s Consumer Hotline at 913-715-3003.

Overland Park has an ordinance (OPMC 5.64) that addresses “door to door” solicitation. One of the main tenants of the ordinance states that if a NO SOLICITOR sticker is affixed to the front door, it is illegal for anyone to solicit at that residence. Other provisions specify the time of day solicitation is allowed, that being not before 10:00 am or after 9:00 pm. The ordinance also states solicitation is only allowed at the main entrance of the residence. Many other requirements are stated in the ordinance. NO SOLICITATOR stickers are available at Overland Park City Hall.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Emergency Management Exercise


For the past three Mondays we’ve posted information and videos on this blog regarding emergency preparedness and tips on what to do before, during or after an emergency event. On Wednesday, March 28th, the employees of the City of Overland Park conducted a table-top emergency management exercise at the Command and Control Center.

The purpose of this exercise was to bring all departments of the city together in a coordinated effort to prepare for and respond to an emergency event that could hit our city in the future.

Today’s scenario simulated a tornado with devastating wind speeds in excess of 190 miles an hour. So far in 2012, there have been 200 tornadoes resulting in 55 fatalities. The storm season runs from April-June.

Department heads and various employees from all over the city discussed ways to handles issues resulting from this type of catastrophe. The exercise planned for emergency handling of damage to area hospitals, schools, and the basic infra-structure of the city’s services.

By conducting these exercises, the City of Overland Park can assure its citizens they will be prepared when disaster strikes.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What a Difference a Year Makes: Winter Accidents

If you look outside you’ll see numerous indicators that spring has arrived. The flowers are blooming, the trees are budding, and the insects are “a buzzing”.

Old Man Winter never really showed his face after bringing less than four inches of snow this year. That’s a paltry amount compared to the snowy winters we’ve seen over the last two years.

This reduced snowfall and warmer winter season obviously affects many different things. One thing it did have a significant impact on for us was the number of accident reports taken during the winter compared to previous years.

In January of 2010, we took 398 accident reports, and in 2011, we took 414. During January 2012, we only took a total of 325 reports. During the winter months of February, there were 334 reports in 2010 and 357 reports taken during 2011. This year the number was drastically less with only 277 accidents reported. Comparing the first two month of 2011 with this year, that’s a significant difference of 171 accidents.

Not only is the sun shining down on us, but I’m pretty sure the insurance agents are grinning, too.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Disaster and Preparedness Episode 3: It's Not Rocket Science

This is video number three of a seven part series designed to educate the public regarding steps they can take before disaster strikes.


The videos were produced by the Metropolitan Emergency Managers Committee, a regional forum for emergency managers and response agencies from cities and counties around the Kansas City region. MEMC members made a conscious decision to use humor to share important information in a fun, non-threatening way. “We want people to understand the risks, but we don’t want to scare anyone,” said Mike Baughman, co-chair of the MEMC’s Citizen Readiness Subcommittee. “We hope that everyone, even children, can not only enjoy these videos, but also learn some key lessons from them.”


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMrPXBlZhlA&feature=player_embedded

Friday, March 23, 2012

Getting to Know the Department: Police Dispatch Center


The Overland Park Police Department Dispatch Center receives all emergency and administrative calls for the Police Department.

The Dispatch Center is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and innovative technology. It is staffed by 17 full-time dispatchers and 4 part-time dispatchers. A Police Captain is responsible for the overall operation of Dispatch. The staffing level of the Dispatch Center has decreased over the past 10 years, even though the population of Overland Park has grown substantially.

The Dispatch Center is staffed by dedicated and skilled personnel who work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year. Police Dispatchers are trained to ensure the steady advances in technology and advanced computer programming applications are used to expedite police services to Overland Park citizens and visitors. The efficiency of our dispatchers is obvious from the numbers below.

· The average number of 911 calls received over the past 2 years is 78,794. We received 80,767 911 calls in 2011.

· The average number of Administrative calls received over the past 2 years is 184,461. We received 166,629 Administrative calls in 2011.

· The average number of incoming telephone calls handled by each dispatcher per year is approximately 22,500 calls.

· The average number of dispatched calls handled by each dispatcher per year, is approximately 9,900 calls.

· In 2009, the average time from receipt of call until dispatched was 1.38 minutes. In 2010, the average time was 1.22, and in 2011 the time was 1.18.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Consumer Scams and Frauds: “Microsoft Certified Technician”

So far in 2012, officers have taken more than 60 reports regarding various scams. Most of the people filing these reports haven’t fallen victim to these scams but, sadly, there are still many who have. While 60 reports may seem like a lot, the truth is there are many others out there who have become a victim but are too embarrassed to report it.

Recently, we’ve taken a few reports from citizens advising of a scam involving someone posing as a “Microsoft Certified Technician”. The scammer would call the person to tell them Microsoft had received an error message and that their computer was badly infected. The caller would then try to get the person to get on their computer to direct them to a website that allows the scammers to take remote control of the computer.

The scammer will then spend time on the computer showing the victim where the “bogus” problems are. Their goal is to ultimately convince them to purchase unneeded software to restore their computer to its original state.

Once the scammer has remote access to a computer, they can retrieve passwords, credit card info and cause costly computer problems in the process.

Microsoft will NOT call people to warn them about viruses on their computers, and anyone who uses this tactic is simply trying to scam you out of your money. If you ever receive a call like this, we suggest you hang up and not respond to any questions.

Microsoft has issued several warnings in relation to this type of scam. They have also stated that the average loss for victims is around $875. Here are a few suggestions they provide to help keep you from becoming a victim in the future.

· Be suspicious of unsolicited calls related to a security problem, even if they claim to represent a respected company.

· Never provide personal information, such as credit card or bank details, to an unsolicited caller.

· Do not go to a website, type anything into a computer, install software or follow any other instruction from someone who calls out of the blue.

· Take the caller’s information down and pass it to the authorities.

· Use up-to-date versions of Windows and application software.

· Make sure security updates are installed regularly.

· Use a strong password and change it regularly.

· Make sure the firewall is turned on and that antivirus software is installed and up to date.

· Microsoft Security Essentials is a free antivirus product and is available at http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/security_essentials/default.aspx

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Can You Hear Me Now?

Or should I ask, “Can you all hear me now?” Communication is vital in our lives. This is doubly so in a police officer’s life. We tell new officers that their radios can be the most important pieces of equipment on their duty belts. So, when opportunity knocked and offered a chance to update our radio system in Overland Park, we accepted.

Recently we transferred over to a Motorola 700 / 800 mhz system. That sounds technical but, in layman’s terms, it means we can communicate with any other Johnson County agency by way of radio. We can also talk to the Kansas Highway Patrol, Kansas Department of Transportation, Overland Park Public Works and the Johnson County Bus system. But wait, there’s more.

When the tornado tore through Greensburg, Kansas a few years ago, we sent some of our officers to help. The officers were able to use our equipment, such as cars, but communications became limited. Obviously in-car and portable police radios were intended to work in Overland Park, but once officers left the metro area, the radios were nearly useless. The new system allows us to communicate with agencies state-wide.

The officers have good things to say about the new system. They have already used it to communicate with outside agencies, which has allowed them to reduce response times and be better prepared upon the arrivals to calls. The old system would go down at times and officers would frequently report back that they either could not transmit traffic or could not hear transmissions.

In short, the officers can be heard now. And that is a good thing.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Video # 2- Keep Mayhem to a Minimum

‘Disaster’ and ‘Preparedness’ characters teach important lessons

Last week we introduced the first of seven weekly videos which are designed to encourage people to take responsibility for emergency preparedness.

In this week’s video episode # 2- Keep Mayhem to a Minimum, our two characters, Disaster and Preparedness, provide critical information about key steps people should take to be prepared for emergencies — having a plan, having a supply kit and staying informed. Be prepared to take care of yourself and your family for up to 72 hours following a disaster by putting together a simple emergency kit now.

Check out this weeks video below:

http://youtu.be/lkr93WBEiaM

Friday, March 16, 2012

Feel like the luck of the Irish is on your side?

You may be wearing green tomorrow and you might even be able to pull off a good Irish brogue, but I wouldn’t go as far as testing out the Irish Luck if you are thinking of drinking and driving or drinking while you are under the age of 21.

Saturday brings us another Saint Patrick’s Day. The day is usually filled with fun and merriment. To some, that means adding alcohol to the mix. Because this kind of celebration can often bring an increase of impaired drivers and underage drinking parties, we will again dedicate teams of officers to the specific goals of DUI enforcement and enforcing laws pertaining to minors and alcohol.

In past years, a four-officer team worked the DUI enforcement assignment. This year we will add an additional four-officer team for a total of eight enforcement officers. Officers will also be out working the Teen Angel program. They will focus their efforts on party calls where minors are reported to be consuming alcohol, drinking establishments that may be serving minors and liquor stores that are selling to minors.

The message seems to be getting out there that alcohol impairs one’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle and minors consuming alcohol is not acceptable. You may ask if the message is getting out there, then why the increased enforcement? My answer is, we’re obviously doing something right and we are going to continue our efforts.

In 2011, there were 152 reported alcohol-related accidents in Overland Park and officers arrested 757 impaired drivers. I will continue to encourage our officers to take enforcement action regarding impaired drivers.

If you choose to drink this weekend, please make the responsible decision and don’t drive.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

It Started As A Stop

Think of a police officer and most people imagine a traffic officer asking for license and registration. As a street officer, this is a regular part of their daily working life. Most of the time traffic stops are done for the purpose enforcement or education. However, sometimes it starts as a basic traffic stop and turns into something so much more.

Recently, an observant officer noticed a vehicle which resembled a suspect vehicle related to an armed robbery series. In an effort to avoid unwanted attention from the officer, the driver failed to maintain a safe following distance from the car in front of him. The officer responded by conducting a traffic stop. That stop went from “routine” to case-cracking. It eventually lead to the arrest of the driver for two different armed robbery cases that occurred in Overland Park.

Funny how something as simple as following too closely can result in the capture of a bad guy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My There Sure Are A Lot Of You Out Here Today

Mother Nature seems to have outdone herself this week with the weather. That, coupled with a few other events like Spring Break for several schools, the NCAA basketball events and the upcoming Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations, might prove to be a little bit of a distraction for some. There is one task in your life that officers across the metro today will hope to keep you focused on - driving.

Today is one of our Operation Impact days in the Kansas City Metro Area. Operation Impact started in 1990 and Overland Park was one of the six original participating agencies. Today, more than 40 different agencies will be out on the major highways and byways with the goal of making the roadways safer. They will be targeting aggressive driving, seat belt violations and other violations which cause accidents or increase the severity of accidents.

Surprising to some, we will sometimes see an increase in accidents when the weather turns nice. Remember, while it may be nice to roll the windows down and turn up the radio; focus on the task at hand when you are behind the wheel.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

They’ll Steal Anything, Even Things that are Stuck in the Ground

Last week during the overnight hours, a midnight patrol officer was checking apartment complexes in his area of deployment when he observed a suspicious pickup truck driving through the parking lot.

The officer parked his patrol car nearby and watched. The driver left his vehicle running and went around the side of the building where there were no doors, only windows and air conditioning units.

The subject returned to his truck and placed something in the back bed. The officer eventually made contact with the driver, and as he was approaching the bed of the truck, he noticed numerous metal tree stakes in the back.

The officer was able to determine the subject was driving around in the middle of the night pulling the stakes out of the ground. The problem was these stakes were still wired to young trees to keep them growing straight.

Probable Cause was established to charge the driver with theft. Although the stakes may be in the ground, they’re still someone’s property, and taking them without their permission is a crime.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Meet Disaster and Preparedness.

These two characters are the stars of a new series of videos that provide critical information about key steps you and your family should take to be prepared for emergencies — having a plan, having a supply kit and staying informed.

The series includes seven videos that will be broadcast beginning on March 12. Each week we’ll bring you the next video in the series.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/IWVevsBhLBo

The videos were produced by the Metropolitan Emergency Managers Committee, a regional forum for emergency managers and response agencies from cities and counties around the Kansas City region. MEMC members made a conscious decision to use humor to share important information in a fun, non-threatening way. The idea is to get people to understand the risks, but not scare anyone in the process. The hope is that everyone, even children, can not only enjoy these videos, but also learn some key lessons from them.

Studies have shown that humor often helps people remember what they’ve learned, and may also make them more likely to take action. Most people know that we need to be prepared, but not many of them have actually taken steps to protect their families. Do you have a plan and a supply kit? If not, now is the time to get started, especially with the increased risk of severe weather in the spring.

Each video focuses on a particular aspect of emergency preparedness and refers viewers to the MEMC’s preparedness website, http://www.preparemetrokc.org/, for more details.

The videos were produced in cooperation with the Kansas City Regional Homeland Security Coordinating Committee and funded by an Urban Area Security Initiative Grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Kansas - A Member of the Sweet 16

Today, on the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) website, there was an announcement that Virginia Governor, Bob McDonnell, signed a new bill requiring ignition interlock devices for all convicted drunk drivers. This new legislation makes Virginia the 16th state to require the interlock devices.

In 2011, Kansas became a member of the “Sweet 16” after it enacted legislation requiring interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers. The device requires the driver to submit to a breath alcohol test. If a clean sample is not obtained, the vehicle will not start.

According to data gathered by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) in 2010, alcohol-impaired driving accounts for about one third of U.S. motor vehicle fatalities, nearly 11,000 deaths per year.

The Overland Park Police Department places a high priority on removing impaired drivers from our roadways. Please don’t become a statistic by drinking and driving. If you are out and choose to drink, call a taxi or have a designated driver.

http://www.madd.org/blog/2012/march/sweet-16.html

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Teen Angel is a Drive Down Memory Lane


Every now and then you hear about Operation Teen Angel which has become a very effective program to counter teen fatalities and injuries in traffic accidents. But did you ever wonder where the name came from?

It actually is the name of a song by Mark Dinning in 1960. It was one of numerous teenage tragedy songs of the time. These songs became popular because they reflected what was going on during that timeframe which was an increase in teenage traffic fatalities. Throughout the Depression and then into World War II, the availability of cars for teenage drivers to use was very limited. Remember Roosevelt’s campaign promise of “A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage”. After World War II the economy improved, resulting in increased vehicle demand and production. This was the first time in our history where the availability of fast transportation met the vulnerability of teenage exuberance. The result was often the teen tragedies described in the songs.

As a young boy in the early 1960’s, I was taken aback by songs like “Tell Laura I Love Her”; “The Last Kiss”, and ultimately “Teen Angel” - songs which reflected the tragedy of teenagers killed in car accidents. So when we needed a name for our new traffic initiative aimed at keeping our children safe, I dug down into my past and remembered the song “Teen Angel”.

I know it is the program that makes the difference and this program has been very successful in protecting our teenagers from themselves but, none-the-less, I thought that you may be interested in knowing just where the name came from. I also thought you may enjoy listening to this song, so here is a YouTube hyperlink.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KG_VIcoiCFA

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Help to Identify Suspects in Two Commercial Burglaries



Overland Park Police Detectives are looking for assistance in identifying the suspects of two commercial burglaries that occurred to an area health club. The burglaries occurred in the 6800 block of W. 91st Street, on February 25th, 2012, and again on March 2nd, 2012. Both crimes happened during the overnight hours and police believe they are related.

When officers arrived at the business, they found someone had forced entry into the building and targeted cash and alcohol. There was also extensive damage to the inside of the business.

Detectives were able to obtain still photos of the suspects in this case. If you know the identity of the people in these photos, contact the TIPS HOTLINE at 816-474-TIPS.




Tuesday, March 6, 2012

“Excuse me, Sir! I think you dropped your cells.”

We have all seen the show CSI and most of us are impressed with the amazing ways crimes can be solved using forensic science. A lot has changed since the days of Sherlock Holmes. Although, he was on the right track by using a magnifying glass to look for evidence not easily available to the naked eye.

On Friday March 2nd, the new 62,500 square foot Criminalistics Laboratory, run by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, had its ribbon cutting ceremony. The new state-of-the-art lab is four times the size of the previous lab and has the capability of processing evidence from all over the county. Services include fingerprint analysis, DNA testing, forensic evidence, video analysis, foot and tire tracks, controlled substance analysis, and various other crime scene investigation media.

The Overland Park Police Department currently has 35 trained Evidence Technicians. There are two full time Crime Scene Detectives, who process everything from stolen autos, burglaries and rapes to robberies and homicides. They assist at death scenes including unattended deaths, suicides, or even homicides. There are also 85 patrol officers who are trained to process basic crime scenes. These officers’ main priority is answering calls for service, but they possess the skills and equipment to collect evidence at crime scenes. Even though our evidence technicians are highly skilled, they cannot pull fingerprints from the air and solve the crimes in less than an hour like they do on TV.

Overland Park, Kansas remains a great community with great emergency services. The addition of this crime lab provides another resource for us to give superior service and protection. Criminals are starting to think twice about committing their crimes in Overland Park due to the word getting out that if you do crime in OP, chances are you’ll do time.

Monday, March 5, 2012

“Teen Angel” Campaign to Curb Underage Drinking Under Way in Overland Park

During spring break and the months leading up to prom dances, graduation, and parties, officers in plainclothes will deploy on key nights for the sole purpose of identifying and arresting minors who consume alcohol. Additionally, officers will target anyone who provides alcohol to underage persons.

“Officers working the Teen Angel program have been directed to aggressively enforce all underage drinking laws. Some may remember a time when officers who encountered minors consuming alcohol would have them pour it out, and send them on their way with a stern warning. Not anymore.” said Sgt. Eric Houston, “Consumption of alcohol by minors is recognized as a serious problem in the community and is dealt with accordingly.”

One of the primary targets of the Teen Angel program will be underage drinking parties. Sgt. Houston explained, “In the past, we have encountered parents who are under the mistaken impression they can safely host a party where minors are consuming beer and other liquor. This is a very dangerous situation and one in which the hosts can find themselves in serious legal trouble. We are specifically on the look-out for these parties and will hold the appropriate individuals responsible.”

“We will have plainclothes officers working in areas where alcohol is purchased, including liquor stores, convenience stores and bars. The majority of these establishments are diligent in their efforts refuse sales to minors, however there are exceptions, and we will try to find them,” Sgt. Houston said.

Anyone under the age of 18 will be charged through Johnson County District Court; while those 18 and older may be charged through the Overland Park Municipal Court.

The Kansas Department of Transportation awarded the police department a $19,599.00 grant for the purpose of Enforcement of Underage Drinking laws. The Overland Park Police Department has used the Teen Angel program for more than ten years to educate the public about the dangers of underage drinking. The grant will also help build partnerships with retailers and the community, and increase the opportunity to apprehend violators of underage drinking laws and those who provide alcohol to minors.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Consumer Scams and Frauds: House Rentals

During this section, we’ll try to identify one of the many different scams going on all across the country and offer advice on how not to become a victim of it.

The scam this week began as the result of a Craigslist ad (surprise) posted by a “David Smith”. The advertisement was for the rental of a house in the city of Overland Park. The supposed landlord was asking for $600 a month for rent and a $500 deposit.

This all sounded great to the inquiring renter, so they responded to the ad and asked for more information. “David Smith” told the renter to wire the $500 deposit to an address in Nigeria. When asked why he was in Nigeria, he basically made up some bogus story.

The house in question was actually empty and was for sale at the time. The would-be renter did some checking on his own and found the home was owned by another couple and not by “David Smith”. Luckily, no money was ever sent to the scammer but, sadly, that isn’t always the case.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises renters to be wary of the following red flags.

• The deal sounds too good to be true. Scammers will often list a rental for a very low price to lure in victims. Find out how comparable listings are priced, and if the rental comes in suspiciously low, walk away.

• The landlord is located elsewhere and prefers to communicate via e-mail. Scammers might say they have just been relocated out of the country for a job or missionary work - don’t believe it.

• The landlord requires a substantial deposit before handing over the keys or even showing the home. Don’t pay any money before inspecting the home, inside and out.

• The landlord asks the renter to wire money through wire transfer services such as Western Union or MoneyGram. Money sent via wire transfer service is extremely difficult to retrieve and once the scammers have picked it up; there is little recourse—if any—for getting your money back.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Results of Traffic Enforcement Initiatives

On Thursday, February 23rd and on Wednesday February 29th, 2012, Overland Park Traffic Safety Officers conducted High Visibility Traffic Enforcement at two different locations. Here are the results:

February 23rd - I-435 Highway – Quivira to Antioch Rd.

72 - Traffic Violations
1 - Warrant Arrest
63 - Vehicles Stopped

February 29th - US69 Highway from W. 119th St. to W. 87th St.

29 citations were written by four officers during a two hour time period.

22 - Speeding
1 - Adult Seat Belt
4 - Insurance
1 - Red Lght
1 - Driving While Suspended
2 - Driver Awareness Warnings
1 - Drug Arrest - Marijuana
29 - Total Traffic Tickets
26 - Vehicles Stopped

Officers will continue to step up their enforcement activities in these areas, especially with the upcoming construction taking place along I-435 and Quivira Rd.