January 21 2015

– Looking to better investigate the city’s most significant crimes, as well as others that have a big impact on victims even if they don’t grab headlines, the Madison Police Department on Tuesday announced the start of two detective units specializing in violent crimes and burglaries.

The Violent Crimes Unit’s six detectives will investigate homicides, gun-related incidents, armed robberies and substantial batteries, among other crimes.

Police Chief Mike Koval said the Burglary Crimes Unit, with five detectives, will allow the department to better focus on a property crime that can have a big psychological impact on victims.

While burglaries might not seem like the most significant offenses, Koval said they violate victims’ sense of safety and security just as much as any violent crime.

Koval called his department’s clearance rate for burglaries “pedestrian” and said he wanted to see it improve. The new unit will make solving burglaries a bigger priority, he said.

“Intent can only go so far. I demand results,” Koval said.

The new units, made up of detectives from around the city, will start work in February out of the department’s Downtown location.

Each group of detectives will also have help from one of the department’s crime analysts, a detective sergeant, other MPD units such as those dealing with drugs and repeat offenders, and federal authorities, police said.

Lt. John Patterson, who will oversee both units, said they will centralize the department’s response to those crimes.

Rather than having detectives from MPD’s five police districts respond separately to cases across the city that could be related, the same investigators and analysts will work together under the new model.

“This is really an opportunity for us to all … join hands, so to speak, and start sharing among ourselves more effectively,” Patterson said.

The units will also allow detectives to hone their skills, Koval said, making them specialists at investigating those specific types of crimes rather than dealing with the wide range of cases they normally take on.

Koval described the program as a pilot on Tuesday, saying the department would keep track of how effective it is and make changes as needed.

Because the department pulled detectives for the unit from district staffs, Koval said in a blog post that he could wind up asking the city for funding in the next budget to hire new detectives who would fill their former roles.

“Should our results prove promising, I will be back at the budgetary table to request expansion of our reach and to better supplement our detectives who are already bearing an ever-increasing case load,” Koval said.

A press conference announcing the units on Tuesday was the second of three the department is holding this month. Koval formally introduced a new neighborhood-based program last week, and will debut a group of officers focused on mental health issues next week.

– Nico Savidge


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