The Community Oriented Policing Satellite (COPS) was established in University Heights in 1995 through a joint effort of the University Heights CDA, Inc., the Buffalo Common Council, the City of Buffalo, and the Buffalo Police. Subsequently, they piloted satellite stations in six other areas of the city, developing community advisory groups and placing VISTA and volunteer staff to actively engage area residents.
The COPS stations use a community policing approach to effectively address specific neighborhood needs while working on larger issues that affect the City of Buffalo as a whole. They serve as a resource to focus and strengthen the block clubs and community-based initiatives that make a community policing strategy effective. The result is stronger, more stable neighborhoods, desirable for residents and merchants alike. The COPS are highly visible in the community, hosting National Night Out and Glad Bag-A-Thon, and taking part in Take Back the Night, Police Community Days and many other community events. COPS supports local block clubs, help form new ones, and on streets where there are none, recruits block contacts to help communicate with residents.
A key component of the COPS Station program in the Non-Emergency or “Quality of Life” Complaints system, which area residents can use to call in their complaints and concerns. Crime Prevention staff then relay the complaint to the proper authority, most often the local police district, although some complaints are directed to an appropriate city agency. Although this system does not move complaints up to a higher priority, it does give the area another source of getting their non-emergency complaints answered in a timely manner. It also supports the police in addressing non-emergency issues in a thorough and friendly way.
For example, the University Heights COPS Station logged 425 calls in the year 2000. All but two of those complaint calls have been fully resolved. Those two unresolved complaints are currently being settled in court. Eighty-two percent of the calls receive were for police assistance; 18% went to other appropriate city agencies.
One strength of the COPS system is follow-up. All non-emergency complaints are properly recorded and followed up by Buffalo Community Police Officers. COPS staff stays in touch with complainants until some resolution is achieved. This may take the form of arbitration for a neighborhood dispute or an arrest for criminal activity.
Another strength is coordination of information. Just as police districts collect data on crime occurrence, COPS stations collect data on neighborhood nuisances and disturbances. Repeated complaints about a single address are tracked at the stations. Ultimately, COPS will identify strategies to address common complaints and work with the appropriate departments to implement those strategies, whether it is monitoring drug activity to facilitate and arrest, or working with landlords and housing programs to improve problem properties.
COPS is a revitalizing force in Buffalo, involving residents and businesses alike in public safety for the community.