Editorial Board

Syracuse Police Department’s establishment of a Homicide Task Force is a smart move following deadliest year in Syracuse’s history

Following the deadliest year in Syracuse history, it is commendable for the city of Syracuse to establish a specialized group dedicated to investigating homicides within the Syracuse Police Department.

The SPD’s Criminal Investigations Division recently created the Homicide Task Force, which Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner said in her recent State of the City address will “ensure that we have the most effective efforts to solve these terrible crimes.”

In 2016, 30 homicide cases were reported in Syracuse. The establishment of the task force has been a long-term goal for the city, and it is timely that the task force will be in place so that 2017 has the potential to be less violent than its predecessor. It is clear that something needs to be done to address the violence that occurred last year, and this task force is the first step.

The team — which will consist of one lieutenant, one sergeant and eight detectives — is an example of successful delegation within SPD. When a group of 10 police officers is focused on investigating homicides rather than getting caught up with day-to-day police work, more can be done in the line of solving murders.

SPD Sgt. Richard Helterline said homicide investigations involve significant manpower and hours of work. So rather than being stretched thin, these officers can put their heads together to resolve an issue that is very near and dear to the city. This is highlighted by the fact the task force has already shown it’s worthwhile: On Jan. 12, SPD made three arrests in connection to a double homicide, arrests Miner said in her address were the first made under the new task force.

Christopher Maxwell, a professor in the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University, said there is little research as to whether these task forces are effective. He added that crime tends to be concentrated in areas of disadvantaged social status, which makes it difficult to deal with in both the short and long term.

But regardless of any potential research that suggests these types of specialized task forces are not effective, it is a worthy cause for the city of Syracuse and its police department to get behind.

There may be no evidence to say the task force will be effective in the long run, but there is also no evidence to say it won’t be.

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