Best Practices

Mayor Roy A. Bermardi

Syracuse Police Department Family and Victims Services

The Family and Victim Services Division of the Syracuse Police Department became operational on September 12, 1994. It is staffed with 31 officers and four sergeants and is headed by a Captain. With the creation of this division, the Syracuse Police Department has committed the resources of an entire division to focus on youth and family related matters. This division will be composed of three sections, with a sergeant in charge of each: the Youth Enforcement Section, the School Resources Section, and the Family Services Section. Members of this division have been trained specifically to deal with issues such as domestic violence, juvenile delinquency and crimes against children.

It is in the area of domestic violence responses where the establishment of this division has paid the greatest dividends. Previously, when police officers responded to one of the approximately 13,000 reports of domestic violence each year, they diffuse the immediate situation (sometimes with the arrest of one or more of the participants) then write a report about the incident. Now, when officers from this new division respond, they diffuse the situation and start an ongoing investigation into the causes of the conflict. Appropriate referrals to community agencies are then made. This has resulted in a substantial decrease in repeat calls. In February 1995, there were 100 fewer reports of domestic violence in the city as compared to February 1994; in March of 1995, there were 260 fewer calls compared to March of the previous year.

As an additional benefit, this division allows patrol officers to spend more time on the street instead of writing reports.


Summer Police Academy

The Syracuse Police Department's Mini-Police Academy for Youth was first implemented in the summer of 1993. The goals of this Mini-Academy were to allow 19 participating students ages 14 to 21 the opportunity to explore career options in law enforcement; to build a network with and strengthen ties between police officers and the participants; to build self esteem; and to improve academic skills.

This innovative program was presented at each of the city's four high schools. In order to be considered for acceptance in the Mini-Academy, a students needed to be JTPA eligible, which indicated that they were economically disadvantaged. Prior to their participation in this program, these students had no rapport with police officers.

The Mini-Academy was designed to be a scaled down version of the basic police officers training. Each day began with 45 minutes of physical exercise. Participants were given the Department's Physical Efficiency Battery at the beginning and near the end of the program as a form of self evaluation regarding this portion of the curriculum.

The participants worked on their writing skills by keeping journals and writing police reports regarding staged incidents. Public speaking courses, English lessons, and reading skills were also included in the academic component of the curriculum. Each student also took a defensive driving course and learned CPR and first aid.

Throughout the seven week program, the students worked with police officers. They became aware of police responsibilities and duties regarding crime response, crime prevention, and other public service. Aside from age and size, the young people looked and acted like police academy rookies going through this Mini-Academy. Each of them gained an appreciation for police work. The program raised their self esteem much more than any other summer job would. Additionally, the police officers involved with the program feel that policing, especially in the schools, has shown an improvement as a result of this program.


Innovative Recreation Program Enhancement

The goal of the City of Syracuse Innovative Recreation Program Enhancement is to introduce economically disadvantaged neighborhood children, youth and adults of all ages to educational, recreational and skill building opportunities they would not otherwise experience.

Three of the city's six recreational centers are located in areas which have substantial populations of underprivileged and disadvantaged youth and families. With this program, young neighborhood people will be exposed to positive recreational pursuits as an intervention measure to counteract and provide positive alternatives to self-destructive and antisocial behaviors in the environment outside the centers. This program represents a significant step in the city's transition from warehousing youngsters in gymnasiums and recreation centers to providing structured group and individual recreation activities which stimulate the imagination and help create lifetime recreational interests while strengthening both physical and mental capabilities. In addition to serving all ages, programs are designed to include participants with disabling conditions.

In order to accomplish this transition, equipment and materials were purchased and installed at the three recreation centers. A state-of-the-art computer lab at each center was designed to meet the needs of area residents. Computers in the labs have CD ROM hard drives which allow for use of interactive multimedia software. There are several programs where the user can enter into a virtual reality and experience cause and effect. Young people may sign on to KIDLINK, a series of 24-hour-a-day discussions among children and teachers. Access to the Internet worldwide computer network is also provided to the users.

While computers are an important component of this program, books, tapes, and videos also are part of the expanded recreational opportunities provided. Through these media, people can learn the basics of archery, gardening, skating, camping and many other activities.

There is a fitness center at each center designed to meet the needs of children, elderly and those physically challenged. Once in the center, the older adults become role models.

The success of this program may be easily duplicated at other centers and in other cities.

Contact: Linda DeFrancisco, (315) 448-8020

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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