With a boost from grant funding, the is close to debuting a new four-person team to focus partially on relationships with property managers at apartment complexes and other multifamily housing units with an eye on curbing street crimes.
Chief of Police Joseph Kreins said a $1.1 million grant secured earlier this year will allow a team of two officers, a corporal and a management analyst to coordinate efforts with the Marin County Major Crimes Task Force, the Cooperative Probation Enforcement team and other law enforcement agencies. The new beat, which starts in July, will not be geographically restricted within the city limits.
The three-year grant plus a commitment by the city to cover a fourth year allows the department to jump from 55 sworn officers to 58 — still below the 63 officers Novato police had as recently as five years ago.
"I would think the response from the community would be overwhelmingly positive," Kreins said. "There have been concerns about issues relating to gangs, graffiti and crime trends, so I think they'd receive this in a positive way.
"These officers are going to go out there and attack problems on a sustained basis, not just as a two-week task force. We'll be doing this for three or four years. Sustainability is the key to solving any problem."
The street crimes unit, which will be known as the Novato Response Team, will not only have a geographic free reign but also work shift flexibility.
"If we have a bunch of auto burglaries, we can put them on that ... if we have an issue with a gang, we can put them on that ... if we have problems in a particular multifamily unit, we can put them on that," Kreins said. "Their purpose is to be a problem-solving team, more directed toward ongoing chronic issues — things we haven't had the resources to get to for an extended basis."
Novato had 361 felonies committed from Jan. 1 through April 30, down from 484 the previous year. The total misdemeanors for the same time span was 949, down from 1,042 in 2011.
"Crime is down, contrary to what some people believe in our community," he said.
Kreins said he remembers meeting with former city manager Dan Keen about eight years ago when Kreins first came to Novato.
"I walked right into his office and told Dan I needed a team like this," Kreins said. "I said, 'Gimme three people and I'll be thrilled.' But that was right when the budget started to turn south on us. Now that we have it, we think it will be very successful and well-received."
Funding for the Novato Response Team will cover officer salaries and several one-time equipment purchases, the chief said.