Shelton police work with the public to prevent crime

In an era that has witnessed unsettled times between law enforcement and the public, the Shelton Police Department’s Crime Prevention Division continues to forge positive ties with the community.

“It’s a partnership between the community and the police,” said Sgt. Michael Lawrence, who runs the Crime Prevention Division.

Shelton residents can “put a face with a name. They know who to talk to directly,” Lawrence said.

The division has been in operation for at least 25 years, said Lawrence, a 26-year Shelton police member who has spent 15 years in the crime prevention unit.

Mainstays of the division are neighborhood watch groups. “One person in the neighborhood sparks it and organizes a meeting,” said officer John Napoleone, a division member who’s been on the Shelton force for 12 years.

A neighborhood's concerns

Police officers who attend a neighborhood watch organizing meeting, which usually includes up to 20 interested residents, can determine what the main concerns are in a neighborhood.

“A lot of the time they want to learn how to prevent a burglary from taking place in their house,” Napoleone said.

Meetings are conducted either at the police department or in private homes, and crime division members provide security tips and personal safety tips and may suggest self-defense classes for women.

Shelton currently has 25 neighborhood block watches.

Being ‘pro-active’

Police recently attended a neighborhood meeting in the Pine Rock area, Napoleone said. “When we give people tips, they appreciate it,” he said. “It’s a nice feeling.”

Police also post safety tips on the department website, at “We try to be pro-active rather than reactive,” Lawrence said, and police sometimes pinpoint neighborhoods that have seen multiple burglaries.

Through block watch meetings, police can initiate more relaxed relationships with residents, away from high-stress situations, Lawrence said.

They typify the department’s community policing efforts in general.

The Crime Prevention Division offers “an opportunity for the public to see cops in a different light,” said Lt. Robert Kozlowsky, who has served as the department’s spokesman.

“It’s all part of building the relationship between the public and police, and enlightening the public so it’s less likely they become victims of crime,” Kozlowsky said.

Det. Lubelia DeBrun and officer Kenneth Giangregorio are also members of the Crime Prevention Division.

Prevention is a two-way street

Whereas police can offer tips and protection, the public can also help prevent crime. “You’re the eyes and ears of your neighborhood,” Lawrence said. “Police don’t know what fits in and what doesn’t.”

If neighbors see a suspicious person or vehicle, they should call the police department, and a patrol officer will respond, Napoleone said.

“We investigate to see if it’s suspicious,” he said, and sometimes police find that the person is indeed “casing the area.”

On the other hand, “suspicious” people can be deemed innocent, and suspicious vehicles are sometimes unmarked police cars.

“We can put people’s minds at ease,” Napoleone said. “We can tell them the car checks out and is fine.”

Calls to the department can be kept anonymous. “An anonymous call goes a long way,” Lawrence said. “It provides us with information.”

Important to file complaints

Division members stress the importance of people filing complaints, which generate case numbers and allow investigators to call up a history of calls to a certain address through the Complaint Aid Dispatch (CAD) system.

“We like to know as much information as possible when we walk into a situation,” Lawrence said, and build a case.

Sometimes information from the public can help police in their probes. For example, a resident could call in to report a suspicious red Chevrolet, and it could turn out the car is one police have been looking for, Lawrence said.

Limit ‘crimes of opportunity’

Much of the crime prevention program aims to help people deter “crimes of opportunity,” Napoleone said.

Leaving front doors unlocked and garage doors open, or cell phones, briefcases and purses on the front seats of cars, creates “opportunity and ease” for criminals, he said.

People shouldn’t leave ladders outside the house and should stop mail and newspaper delivery when on vacation.

Trees that could cover doors and windows and dim lighting are also “weaknesses” that criminals look for when casing a neighborhood.

“It’s good to have good neighbors,” Lawrence said. “Call them when you go on vacation, so if they see something suspicious, they can call you and you can call the police.”

Credit cards and purses

Other tips include not bringing credit cards to the gym and writing  “ID required” next to the signature on back of credit cards. Stores rarely ask to see IDs, opening the way for credit card theft.

Women also make the mistake of leaving their purses in their shopping carts while they step away to shop.

Napoleone said he recently left a postcard with his name on it next to a purse in a shopping cart. He wrote the words “Someone could have stolen your purse” on the postcard.Solicitors and contractor scams

Solicitors and contractor scams

Police warn the public about magazine subscription solicitors, who may be criminals. Don’t give solicitors cash, Lawrence said, and ask to see their permits.

The division also deals with senior citizen email scams and contractor scams, and conducts welfare checks on the elderly.

In another capacity, division members take Scout troops on tours of the Shelton Police Department.

Creating good relationships with police officers allows the public to see their sympathetic side. “We’re police officers, but we understand,” Lawrence said.