With new officer, Lincoln set to bolster case clearance rate, chief says

Posted Jan. 03, 2012, at 5:51 p.m.

LINCOLN, Maine — Police Chief William Lawrence said he expects statistics will show that police improved on the 20 percent case clearance rate they had when he started as the town’s top officer in April, and he hopes to see the rate go beyond 30 percent this year.

In an interview on Tuesday, Lawrence also said the hiring of Brandi Alton, 25, of Ripley as the department’s seventh officer on Dec. 27 brings police to full staff. It will allow Officer David Cram to become the department’s first full-time detective in recent memory when Alton finishes nine weeks of field training with Officer Jeff Rice, Lawrence said. That training began this week.

“Even without that [detective] position, right now the clearance rate has increased,” Lawrence said Monday. “Crime has decreased to some degree but the complaint load has stayed the same and somewhat increased.”

Case-clearance rates, which measure the number of crimes or complaints solved by arrest, determined not to be criminal matters or otherwise dismissed, are among the key statistics police use to measure their effectiveness. Most departments have a 30 percent clearance rate, Lawrence has said.

He believes the increase in complaints police receive is reflective of residents having more trust in his department and his officers being more visible and increasing their sources of information within Lincoln.

Lincoln’s officers “appear to be happy and enjoying their jobs and developing relationships in the community. By doing that, people call us and become our eyes and ears for us and we get more complaints,” Lawrence said.

He based his statements Monday on the approximate statistical measurements police take monthly, he said. Final case-clearance rate figures will be available when the annual federal Uniform Crime Reporting Program report for Maine, compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation from department statistics, is released this spring.

Cram’s promotion is expected to improve the clearance rate, as the 11-year veteran of the Lincoln and East Millinocket police departments will be tasked with finding links between incidents and crimes and doing follow-up investigations for which uniformed officers, the department’s first responders, often lack time.

“To me, 30 percent wasn’t a lofty goal. It is a reachable goal. I believe we should be past that,” Lawrence said.

Cram’s new position will be paid for initially with a three-year, $193,000 federal grant.

Alton comes to the department with a Bachelor of Science degree in criminology from the University of Southern Maine. She grew up in Dexter, where she played sports for Dexter Regional High School, Lawrence said.

A reserve police officer in Wilton who also served as a reserve officer in Old Orchard Beach last summer, Alton scored No. 1 on the Lincoln Police Department’s hiring tests. She is due to finish training at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro in the fall, Lawrence said.

Alton is the department’s first female police officer since Patti McLaughlin left to join the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department more than a year ago.

“She is very intelligent, a hard worker, and has demonstrated some leadership and team play capabilities through her athletics in high school and college,” Lawrence said of Alton.

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