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Dayton conference draws law enforcement to eliminate problems

More than 15 years ago, the city of Boston instituted a plan to release drug dealers and violent offenders if they would agree to stop committing crimes.

“They suspended prosecution and arrest and said, ‘We’re giving you a second chance,’” said Michael Scott, director of POP. “That’s still radical stuff, but for a period of time, crime went down 100 percent among the target population in Boston.”

That’s one of the ideas shared Monday with nearly 300 police officers from 11 countries and 26 states at the 24th Problem-Oriented Policing conference at the Convention Center in Dayton.

Dayton Police chief Richard Biehl — whose department is hosting this event — is an avid proponent of problem-oriented policing. It appalls him the federal government is pulling its funding (about $300,000) from POP next year.

“It’s incredible,” Biehl said. “Stunning. Of all the things the federal government should be supporting it should be learning and education for law enforcement officers throughout the country.

“There is no better conference, in my opinion, to deal in a practical way with crime and disorder problems and have substantial improvements in public safety.”

Of course, not every problem-oriented policing success continues forever (Boston crime eventually increased in target areas), but these conventions have allowed police departments to share what works in their communities.

Biehl said problem-oriented policing helped rectify many of the downtown RTA hub problems as well as disorder problems at Belmont high school

“Without POP, we would have tried to ‘police’ our way out of (disorder problems at Belmont),” Biehl said. “We worked with the principal of the school to redesign class structure.”

The conference runs through Wednesday, the day the Dayton department finds out if it wins the Goldstein Award for one of its projects, prostitution reduction and recovery through consumer enforcement strategies.

The Dayton force has been up for the award in three of the last four years, finishing runner-up twice.

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