OPD adds flex unit to better protect citizens during rise in violence

September 10, 2018 | 9:49 pm

Updated September 10, 2018 | 10:41 pm

Graphic by Owensboro Times

Owensboro residents are aware of the recent increase in gunshots, shootings and stabbings.

Since Sept. 1, 2018, the following reports have occurred:  one reported shooting with injuries, five reports of theft by unlawful taking or disposition of a firearm, two reports of receiving stolen property of a firearm, two reports of first-degree wanton endangerment, one possession of a handgun by a convicted felon, one report of carrying or concealing a deadly weapon and one stabbing.

Prior to this violent start to September, Owensboro Police Department received 68 reports of shots being fired in 2018, compared to 50 shots being fired reported in 2017.

OPD is taking a proactive approach to the violence on the highest-affected streets. To combat the issue of increased gun violence and reckless gun use in the city, OPD’s newly introduced flex unit — a group of four officers and one supervisor — will maintain a visible presence on Owensboro’s west side.

Besides the heightened presence and awareness by community members and residents, the flex unit hopes to better protect residents living in the area between West 5th Street and West 9th Street, where a higher percentage of gunshots and violent crimes have been reported.

According to OPD Public Information Officer, Andrew Boggess, the flex team’s purpose is to “increase our presence in that area — they’ll be out there getting lots of contact with people.”

Boggess said OPD wants to increase community engagement to better understand the reasons and motives behind the recent violence.

The flex unit will also conduct legal traffic stops in the area to not only gather physical evidence but to allow interaction between officers and residents on the west side. However, violent criminal activity will always be the flex unit’s primary focus.

While OPD won’t say if the recent shootings and fired shots are related incidents, the geographical proximity between several of the reported shootings and shots fired infer a connection between the events.

Within Owensboro’s 68 incidents of shots being fired, several cases have transpired without an arrest. According to Boggess, it’s difficult to issue an arrest for a felony — especially for a shooting without physical injuries or physical evidence — due to specific arrest laws and Constitutionalized protocol.

“I think our detectives do an excellent job,” Boggess said. “But we want to build a solid case before we charge somebody. To build a court case, there are different standards.”

With some cases being hard to issue a quick arrest, the OPD flex unit will provide an efficient method of decreasing gunshots fired.

“The nature of this unit means they’ll show up when it happens,” Boggess said. “Their hours are subject to change on short notice.”

OPD is hopeful that the addition of a flex unit hitting Owensboro’s most violent streets will decrease the number of shootings, stabbings and shots being fired.

“My hope is they will get some guns off the street,” Boggess said.

September 10, 2018 | 9:49 pm

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