By Igor Studenkov
For the Bugle
Luis Tigera, who was appointed Niles Police Chief earlier this year, unveiled several initiatives designed to bolster community-police relations and improve the police department’s ability to prevent crime.
He presented the plan at the Aug. 22 Village of Niles Board of Trustees meeting. Tigera told the officials that he created the plan on the behest of Mayor Andrew Przybylo, who asked him to review current police strategies. He came up with several strategies designed to strengthen his department’s relationships with residents and various civic institutions, increase police presence in various neighborhoods, improve transparency and tackle issues that impact residents and businesses. The police expect to implement them over the next few months.
Tigera said that, to increase collaboration between NPD and the school districts that serve the village, he will be reinstating the School Resource Officer (SRO) program. It will be made up of one full-time officer who would work with the school districts and the students. The officer will also work with community organizations that address addiction and substance abuse issues, with the presentation giving Niles Family Services and Maine Community Youth Assistance Foundation, a Park Ridge based nonprofit that works to combat drug and alcohol abuse along Maine Township adolescents, as possible examples.
As part of the effort to improve community-police interactions and make police more responsive to community issues, Tigera is launching the Community Orientation Reaction Team. Under this initiative, Niles will be divided into 16 beats, and each beat will be assigned two officers. The officers will be responsible for investigating and addressing issues that affect their beat. They will get support from NPD’s Crime Prevention Bureau.
At the same time, Tigera is planning to ramp up community outreach in general by launching the Community Awareness Team. It won’t have any officers dedicated to it specifically – rather, it would involve regular officers stepping in as needed. The officers will take part in block parties and village events. The department will continue holding a Citizen Police Academy to give interested residents insight into the ins and outs of police work, and all residents will be able to talk to officers directly during Coffee with a Cop events. The department will also be increasing walking patrols and do mobile outreach. The idea, the presentation indicated, was to “provide resources to families by building relationships one neighborhood at a time, through police-resident contact.”
To improve traffic safety, Tigera is creating the Traffic Safety Unit. While it will be enforcing all traffic laws, it will put special focus on trucks operating with unsafely, and distracted and impaired driving. It will also use traffic speed data and resident reports to identify unsafe intersections and put more focus there.
To help the Niles business community, Tigera is creating the Theft Awareness Program. As he explained during the presentation, it’s a crime that tends to impact several businesses at once. In order to reduce the impact, he planned to use TAP to educate the business owners about theft prevention and identity theft trends. He would also create a notification system that would alert the businesses about thefts that happened in the area and the suspects behind them. Finally, he planned to increase patrols in commercial areas, including parking lots.
More generally, the department will be looking at which areas deserve attention using a combination of data on past crimes and information from residents, businesses, community organizations and other village departments.
After the presentation concluded, Trustee Dean Strzelecki, who used to be the Niles Police Chief himself, asked Tigera if any of the initiatives would require any officers to be pulled away from their current duties. The current chief responded that there wouldn’t be much impact.
In a statement released on Aug 25, NPD indicated that the initiatives will be implemented gradually.
“In the coming months these objectives and initiatives will be implemented through the formation of the Crime Prevention Bureau which will work directly out of Chief Tigera’s office,” it stated. “The Crime Prevention Bureau will be the point of contact these initiatives to work towards the success of Chief Tigera’s objectives.”