Tikoian sees transformation in N. Providence Police Department

Tikoian sees transformation in N. Providence Police Department

North Providence Police Chief David Tikoian describes the positive strides made by the department. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)

NORTH PROVIDENCE – In the five months since he took over as the town’s police chief, David Tikoian says he’s seen a “complete transformation” in the department.

Signs that morale is up were everywhere during a visit to the department on Monday, with smiles on many faces and chatter among departments.

Several officers have received promotions, and the department has made great advancements in a number of areas, said Tikoian. Officers confirmed that the department is a much better place to come to work.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the work that our police officers are putting forth,” said Tikoian.

Multiple unannounced audits of the department’s evidence room have come back with “100 percent accountability,” putting the department on track to gain its accreditation later this year. “We’ve really tightened that up,” said Tikoian.

Lt. Diana Perez, now back to work full-time after going out on medical leave and suing former Acting Chief Chris Pelagio on sexual harassment charges, was tasked with creating a winter operations plan for the department. That plan, governing everything from how the department enforces the town’s snowstorm parking ban to how it communicates with the public, was in full effect during the season’s first major winter storm two weeks ago.

Communicating with the public through a variety of channels led to “excellent cooperation” on the parking ban, with only 19 vehicles towed, said Tikoian.

The plan also called for allocating police resources differently, including having detectives come in to work storm coverage and having officers stationed at various points throughout town. The department also did “simple things” such as calling tow companies ahead of time to make sure they were on standby for towing operations, noted the chief, or notifying the town DPW and other departments that police were at the ready to assist with anything needed, including enforcement of the town ordinance prohibiting pushing snow back into the street.

By stationing an officer at the department’s operations center to run point on the storm response, the dispatch center was freed up to take calls from residents, said Tikoian.

“From my perspective, it worked very, very well,” he told The Breeze.

Tikoian and new Deputy Chief Arthur Martins are also taking steps to get police officers into the community. Messages from residents are verifying that more officers are being seen at local events and in neighborhoods, he said.

“They’re (officers) getting the message, and they’re responding to that,” he said.

Crime statistics from the past five years show how vital it is for officers to have greater neighborhood involvement. In 2012, the town saw 150 burglaries, compared to 70 burglaries in 2017, said the chief. Incidents of vandalism during that time dropped from 206 to 151. And in the larceny from motor vehicles category, where there “has to be a correlation” between officers being seen and fewer incidents, he said, there were 121 incidents in 2012 compared to 45 incidents in 2017.

Martins is working on a data-driven approach to crime, so police have a better idea of where they should target enforcement and patrols. If there are more larcenies and breaking and entering incidents in a particular area, officials can then deploy more officers to that area, said Tikoian.

The chief also has the department on an “aggressive schedule” to apply for accreditation. Perez is managing the accreditation process and professional standards in the department, including drafting policies. About 20 to 25 significant department policies have been redone already, and the rest will be done in time to go for accreditation at the end of the summer, said Tikoian.

Just like officers have department roll call every day, Tikoian is planning a “community roll call” for residents, likely in March, where a forum will be held at Camp Meehan for residents to come express their concerns to police officers. Too often, said Tikoian, residents only see officers when they come into their house, and “I think it’s very important for the police department to connect with the community, and to bring them into our house, so to speak.”

The community roll call can only “build trust and confidence” in the department, he said.

He said he’s received “excellent cooperation” from the police union and mayor.

Evidence that officers are happier can be found in the fact that they’re now staying beyond their regular work hours of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., said Tikoian. When he started in North Providence, he said, officers were often coming and going right when the clock hit the top of the hour, but many officers are now showing up as early as 7:30 a.m. and leaving well after 4 p.m.

Ongoing construction of a new public safety complex is certainly improving morale, he said, as is the fact that the department is looking to add new officers. With three available slots, plus two officers currently on active military deployment, the department is currently down about five officers.