Before the advent of computers, many Dallas police officers carried a “hook book” filled with mug shots of criminals who worked their beats. It was an easy way to keep an eye on them in case they were wanted by police or appeared to be looking for more trouble.
Now hook books are making a high-tech return.
Officer Joe King came up with an idea to create color-coded digital charts of burglars recently arrested in the southeast patrol division where he works. Rather than relying on happenstance to catch burglars, officers employ the “virtual hook books” to spot targeted offenders.
Red indicates there’s an active warrant out for the burglar’s arrest. Green indicates a habitual burglar. Yellow means the burglar is in jail.
“It’s a way to track them,” said King, a 13-year-veteran. “Do they have an active burglary warrant? Are they a habitual burglar? Are they still in jail? Where do they live?”
Now, all seven Dallas patrol stations have been instructed to adopt King’s approach. And officials placed copies of the charts on the department’s internal Fusion Center Web site.
Eventually, the virtual hook books could be available on the computers in patrol cars, providing constant updates to officers in the field. This would make it easier for officers to monitor known burglars in their patrol areas.
Police also are in the process of entering the name of every offender into a system that would automatically notify authorities of arrests.
First Assistant Police Chief David Brown called King’s idea “amazing police work” that will help shut down repeat offenders by “finding a way to circumvent their behaviors.”
King came up with the idea after noticing that many patrol officers couldn’t readily identify the burglars preying on their beats.
In a city where property crime drives much of the crime rate, officers know that the chances of catching a burglar in the act are slim to none.
So King spent weeks coming up with the concept and combing through arrest records to compile the names, pictures and other information of all burglars arrested since January 2009 in the southeast patrol division.
“He’s such a breath of fresh air of innovative ideas,” said his commander, Lt. Regina Smith.
“It’s our job to take them off the street. Each time we take them off the streets, that’s one less house or business getting burglarized.
King updates the boards in southeast, which divide offenders into geographic areas, on a weekly basis.
Take the board for southeast’s “310″ sector, encompassing portions of South Dallas.
It lists information on and displays the mug shots of felons such as Joseph Dunn, 46, who has been convicted of burglary, theft, attempted vehicle burglary and aggravated robbery in Dallas County. Or Dwayne Allen, a 54-year-old felon with a long Dallas County rap sheet that includes repeated convictions for burglary, theft and possessing drugs.
At southeast patrol, the charts have been placed on the walls of the detail room where officers assemble before each shift. Officers take printouts into the field.
Commanders have also decreed that any officer who arrests a targeted offender will receive a departmental commendation.
In recent weeks, southeast officers have arrested more than 20 offenders who were in the “hook book.” Smith, who frequently accompanies her officers in the field, snagged one herself.
At northeast, the charts showed their worth on the first night they were in use after an officer immediately recognized a wanted felon.
“The deployment detective said, ‘Wait a minute, I know that guy,’ ” said Lt. Mike Black, a northeast patrol commander. “Within an hour or two, we had an arrest.”
At south central, they’ve identified nearly 200 burglars arrested in the division since the start of 2009. Officials plan to also compile a list of paroled burglars living in south central.
“We’re making them all targeted offenders,” said Sgt. Louis Felini, supervisor of a deployment unit. “We have a very large Walmart in our division. Several off-duty officers who work there said pretty much everybody on this board shops at Walmart. They’re going to take the wanted list for when they’re in their off-duty capacity.”
Department officials recognize that many of these offenders won’t stay long behind bars in a county jail constantly struggling with overcrowding.
“We can’t control the county and how they let the revolving door swing,” Smith said. But she added, “We can control what we have the authority to do and that is to make the appropriate arrest.”
By Tanya Eiserer