Fighting crime may be considered a team effort. When it comes to solving burglary cases, South Bend actually relies on an organized team to tackle those cases.
It is relatively new, but this team investigates burglaries. An idea that has been on the drawing board for years has finally become a reality. This year the South Bend Police Department Burglary Unit is official.
The officers who work on this unit feel a great deal of pride in the work and believe in their mission. If there is a burglary in South Bend, they are the team who works exclusively on the case.
In the past, a detective could be working on a number of different types of cases, including burglaries.
Detective Seargent Dominic Zultanski says, “Before, and in other departments, things were fragmented. Different people would get different cases and not see the connections because of communication.”
Detective Kelly Waite talks about the improvements from organizing the unit. “I think what's better is the fact the victims get service by a team rather than having to worry about a person who has vacation time or time off. This is almost a situation where the victims feels there's 24 hour, 7 days a week coverage because they can call any one of us and we can pick up any of their cases anytime.”
By working as a team, the unit can compare cases and identify trends, solving more than just a single case.
Another detective spoke about the many benefits of the team. “We see the cases as a total and not just as a single case or a single [job] at a time. We do see the fact that a lot of our moments come as "aha" moments…and those little moments have solved probably more [cases] than our work as investigators did.
Created in March, the burglary unit has defied the odds. There has been an eight percent drop in burglaries from last year which is significant because most places are looking at triple digit increases in percentages.
Still, as proud as they are, these detectives also give a lot of credit to the men and women on the beat who take the initial burglary reports and the crime prevention bureau that has encouraged ordinary citizens to get involved through neighborhood watch programs.
One detective says, “The citizen information has been huge. In fact, that's the one thing we push a lot when we talk to citizens groups. We meet every month with neighborhood watch captains through crime prevention. We tell them that if you see something suspicious and it doesn't seem right, call an officer and we'll come out and investigate it.”
The burglary unit welcomes the daily challenge even though their case load continues to grow.
Detective Zultanski says in the months and years ahead, he is hoping his unit will go beyond simply investigating and solving burglaries. He wants them more actively involved in stakeouts and stings. As he puts it, "We plan to be hiding in bushes and surprising the crooks."