ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Nearly a hundred local leaders from the Stateline met today at the first Winnebago County Public Safety Summit.
There was a lot of expertise in the room today. Leaders from Chicago and Cook County came to talk about what they've done and what has worked to clean up their streets. Some of the more interesting ideas presented at today's meeting, School-based social media interventions. Cops get on Facebook and see where the drama is starting and then go to school to talk to the kids before they end up fighting. Another option: letting people anonymously text crime tips to police. Some agencies put a phone number on their crime scene tape or have boxes set up in neighborhoods so people can drop in a note to tell police what's really going on. They also focused on making sure street-level officers get to make more decisions about policing strategies, because they aren't the ones sitting in an office every day and they know where the problems are.
"We heard it from a number of speakers today is that cops can't do it alone. All the cooperation we have with local law enforcement and we do have a lot of great cooperation happening. There's a lot of other partners that need to be part of the process. It’s not only cops, it courts, its corrections and its community,” said Mayor Morrissey.
"I think the crime scene tape, it's a simple one that makes sense, cause we're after more communication, that's the message. I was especially impressed with the officers in the schools, in the classrooms, in 5-7 grades talking about the ramifications and the staying in school and being productive and so forth,” said Winnebago County Board Chair, Scott Christiansen.
One of the main issues that came up today is that police need to start preventing crime, rather than running around all day putting out fires. However, that's going to be problematic, especially in Rockford and Winnebago County because together those agencies are down nearly 40 police officers.
In the latest round of hiring, 700 people have applied to be Rockford Police Officers. Yet, even the ones who make the cut won't start on the street until 2014. Christensen says the next safety summit will happen this spring, and leaders will focus on social issues, like mental health.