ITHACA, N.Y. – Just over two years since its establishment, the Ithaca Police Department’s “Officer Next Door Program” in the city’s West End has come to a close.
The program, which was approved by Ithaca’s Common Council in February 2016, aimed to combat increased complaints reporting crimes in West Village by setting two police officers up in rent-free apartments nearby.
In a letter addressed to Common Council on April 12, Ithaca Police Chief Pete Tyler announced the withdrawal of the program, which was based on the difficulty to provide success measures from the police presence in West Village.
The program, which was designed under former IPD Chief John Barber, was up for re-evaluation in March.
“My personal feeling, as Chief Barber initially stated, is that there was undoubtedly the intent for a positive impression based on the officer’s presence alone,” Tyler stated in the letter. “I am not convinced that this carried into a sustained, impactful and measurable product.”
Created as a response to increased crime in the West End, the presence of officers living in the neighborhood was implemented to deter criminals from lingering in the area with hopes that crime would decrease. However, Tyler said the concept didn’t necessarily follow through into a tangible outcome.
“I think the toughest challenge for us was not the program itself, but the way it was designed,” Tyler said. “There were no expectations that the officers had to take action while they weren’t working.”
Tyler said he thought there was an “expected climate” from both council members and residents in the area which largely relied on the personality of the officer in the position.
“It’s kind of like having an SRO – it’s a lot of the perceived success, it’s based on the personality of the officer and how public they want to be, but there’s no expectation or requirement for them,” he said.
While the program has been put on hold for now, it may not be completely dead in the water. Tyler stated in his letter that IPD plans on working with Common Council to create new initiatives for the West Village Apartments in the future.
“This may be a temporary decision, and I am willing to review this again later,” he said. “The concept isn’t going anywhere.”