residents, they are among you — the police officers of the Quality of Life Unit.
So, what’s a Quality of Life Unit? It’s a special unit of the that functions as an undercover longer arm of the law that was created by Detective Lt. Steve Dollinger.
The officers involved in the unit specifically target illegal activities that undermine residents’ quality of life and get those responsible for them off the township’s streets and out of people’s community lives.
The unit, first conceived and operational in August of 2010, functions as a cooperative effort between the police department’s Patrol Division and Detective Bureau. With the approval of Police Chief Robert Oches, two patrol officers at a time are assigned, on one- and two-month rotations, to the Detective Bureau as undercover officers in the field.
Those officers hit the streets in undercover cars and civilian outfits to identify and nab “those offenders responsible for committing crimes that adversely affect the quality of life of our residents — burglaries, drugs, car thefts,” Dollinger said. “Reporting to me, they go out on the road in plain clothes with unmarked cars and work their way into the social network of suspects, find out who’s involved with crimes we’ve been investigating (as well as new ones) and make arrests.”
The benefit to having this special unit and its system are significant, he added. To date — minus a hiatus of operation in the winter months of 2011 through June of that year — nine two-man teams have made more than 180 arrests on primarily narcotic, burglary, theft and outstanding warrant charges.
Quality of Life officers were also involved in capturing a fugitive wanted by Florida and arrested “one of the biggest dealers of Oxycodone in the Bayshore area,” Dollinger said. “Another major drug investigation is active now. Search warrants have been executed and drugs have been purchased by undercover officers from drug dealers.”
More than $20,000 in cash has been recovered from narcotic purchases and related criminal activity by the unit’s officers. Drugs with a street value in the tens of thousands of dollars range have also been seized.
Dollinger noted that there has been a spike in burglaries, which, he said in his experience as a veteran police officer, are in most cases drug-related. And, he added, police are finding that drug abuse has been rampant in the area.
“Most of our arrests are narcotics related,” Dollinger said. “Couple that with the fact that the economy is bad. When you mix drugs and need to get money (for the drugs or other reasons), you always see a spike in burglaries. Almost all burglaries are drug-driven — or a very high portion of them are. That sort of statistic is not exclusive to Middletown, either.”
And speaking to the apparent hike in car thefts and burglaries of car contents, Dollinger reiterated that it’s critical for people to remember to lock their cars.
“We get hundreds of those cases a year,” he said. “They hit neighborhood by neighborhood and open cars and empty them out. It’s referred to as cherry picking. In very few incidents do they actually knock windows out to break in. So, if you just keep your cars locked, you’re a lot less likely to get hit with this.”
In addition to the advantage afforded by the unit in increasing arrests, Dollinger said that other pluses of the unit are that it affords officers the opportunity to get some first-hand knowledge of what it takes to be a detective while giving him, as head of the Detective Bureau, an idea of who’s best suited for detective positions as they open up.
Running the unit is also cost-effective, he said. “There is no budget set aside exclusively for the unit and the only cost that the township incurs is the officer’s regular salaries,” Dollinger explained.
So, next time you see in a police blotter item that an officer of the Quality of Life Unit made an arrest, you’ll know what that means. They’re on the beat.