A rise in more complex fraud-related and sex crimes has called for patrol officers to pitch in with initial investigations on more complex cases, said Milford Police Department Chief Keith Hudson.

A rise in more complex fraud-related and sex crimes has called for patrol officers to pitch in with initial investigations on more complex cases, said Milford Police Department Chief Keith Hudson.

Because patrol officers are being called to help with more intense investigations, the Milford Police Department has seen a significant decrease in traffic arrests, from 791 during August 2012 compared to 412 in August 2013. For the months of June and July, there were nearly 700 less arrests in 2013 for traffic violations.

Hudson credits this decrease in traffic arrests to the rise in more complex crimes that require the assistance of patrol officers during preliminary investigations and follow-ups. From Jan. 1 to Sept. 24, the Milford Police Department saw a 63-percent increase in fraud-related crimes, tying up manpower, said Lt. Edward Huey.

The most difficult obstacle is finding the manpower to deal with fraudulent crimes, many of which are coming from larger retail stores, such as Walmart, and in which multiple jurisdictions may be involved, said Det. Dwight Young and Huey.

“It depends on the complexity of the case how much manpower is needed, but usually a fraud crime requires at least two to three hours of surveillance review and paperwork to even begin the tracking process,” Huey said.

It may take months for the department to track down a suspect, especially if that suspect is working in multiple jurisdictions or with the help of other offenders, he said.

Huey said criminals are getting very creative in how they are carrying out scams, stealing credit cards and taking advantage of return policies.

Huey explained that the influx of fraud-related crimes may be due to easily accessible technology, such as skimming devices, as well as the opportunity for criminals to more easily take advantage of faceless victims, like large retail outlets.

“In the minds of the criminal, it’s easier to victimize a retail establishment,” Huey said. “There’s no face with that.”

Huey recommends that consumers can take an extra step to protect themselves from credit card theft by checking the credit card slots at places like gas stations.  Skimming devices are usually easily removable and easy to find by reaching in the slot to feel for a removable tab in the credit card slot.

While violent crimes, like robbery and weapon offenses, have declined by 20 percent from last year’s arrests, the Milford Police Department also reports that there has been a 29-percent increase in sex crimes.

Huey said it may be possible that the increase in sex crimes is due to an increase in reporting of those crimes as a result of increased awareness and education of victims. Huey said there is not the same stigma attached to sex crime victims as was the case perhaps 10 years ago, and there are many support groups for those who have been victimized.

In the case of sex crimes, there is also a lot of manpower required for interviews and investigations, and Huey said that with this type of caseload, it’s imperative to replace any officers that may be leaving.

“With staffing, the timing is coincidentally bad,” Huey said. “It all comes down to available manpower and the highest priority is that patrol is able to answer immediate needs.”

With the planned addition of six new officers, ideally bringing the department staff to 33 officers, Hudson hopes that the Milford Police Department will be able to increase its visibility in surrounding neighborhoods and continue to work on traffic arrests.

“I think [residents] will see officers more in their neighborhoods if the officers aren’t having to respond to one complaint after another. Right now they can’t spend the time in the neighborhoods like we want to,” Hudson said. “The more that we have out there, it’s a better opportunity for those officers to get into the neighborhoods to be seen more.”

Two officers, who are already certified, should become part of the Milford Police Department within the next few weeks, replacing two officers who are currently in the process of taking on jobs with the New Castle County Police Department and the Department of Homeland Security.

Four officers will be new to police work and will enter accelerated training with the State Police Academy at the end of October.

Those officers will become patrol officers, replacing three positions vacated when seasoned officers who have been working with the MPD enter roles as Milford School District school resource officers.

“It helps with the work load, but it’s also about the safety of the other officers working,” Hudson said. “Having more officers will make them feel a lot better when they’ve got other people here to back them up.”