Street crimes unit hits Niles

Two plain clothes officers to focus on drug offenses

NILES — The city police department has established a full-time street crimes unit that will focus on complaints about potential drug or criminal nuisance matters, according to police Chief Jay Holland.

Holland said two officers, who will work in plain clothes or “soft” uniforms, will be dedicated to addressing potential hot spot areas for drug trafficking or that may have drug houses. He called the work “proactive.”

“They’ll be able to spend the time to properly conduct surveillance because they won’t be answering other calls,” Holland said.

He said other officers try to watch problem areas, but have to respond to active calls.

Holland said the department has had a drug unit since the last levy passed, but the dedicated street crimes unit is possible because the department is now at full strength.

Two police officers were hired by the department in May.

“It’s all because we have our full staffing. Our city council and the mayor, they committed to keeping us at our maximum staffing,” Holland said. “If I didn’t have 36 officers, I couldn’t do something like this.”

Mayor Steve Mientkiewicz said full authorized strength is possible because of strong fiscal oversight.

“The goal is to be aggressive in making sure drug-related activity is minimized in our neighborhoods. It’s another step the city is taking in being proactive in cleaning up our neighborhoods, keeping our neighborhoods safe, and moving our city forward,” Mientkiewicz said.