Photo by: John Wilcox
PARLOR GAMES: State Gaming Commissioner Gayle Cameron is working with police to prevent crime once the state’s first gambling parlor opens in Plainville.
Sunday, May 17, 2015
By: Jack Encarnacao
As the Bay State’s first gambling parlor gets set to open in Plainville, the Gaming Commission is building a system that links area police departments’ incident reports to detect any upticks in crime, and Plainville and state police are putting the final touches on a deal to share jurisdiction over the facility.
“We’ve made a commitment to keep these communities safe and secure,” said Massachusetts Gaming Commissioner Gayle Cameron, a retired deputy superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “There’s always been alleged information that as soon as you put a casino in, crime rises dramatically. This will give us real information — what changes do happen in a community in which there is a casino?”
The system being developed by consultant Christopher Bruce, former president of the International Association of Crime Analysts, will allow police departments in Plainville, where Penn National is opening its slots parlor “racino” June 24 at the Plainridge Race Track, and surrounding towns to mark a crime as “casino-related.”
The criteria for “casino-related” crimes include incidents on its property, incidents where offenders or victims were in an area to visit a casino, incidents involving casino employees or an incident involving a vehicle seen entering or leaving a casino.
Bruce will extract and analyze casino-related reports and compare crime rates to pre-casino baseline numbers that are currently being collected, Cameron said.
If local chiefs see increases, they can petition the commission for a piece of a $17.5 million casino mitigation fund to beef up patrols.
“We are focused on laying the groundwork to ensure maximum public safety services for our community and to support future data-driven policing strategies,” Plainville Police Department Chief James Alfred said in a statement.
Casinos are expected to bring aggregate increases in certain types of crime, such as theft from cars in parking lots, forged checks, accidents and drug- and alcohol-related calls to nearby hotels.
Chris Moyer, spokesman for the American Gaming Association, which represents the casino industry, said such reporting systems are welcomed because they can demonstrate that crime rates often stay stable in communities where casinos open.
“We look forward to working with law enforcement to ensure there are no problems,” Moyer said.
“We’re confident that we’ll have a positive relationship.”
Cameron said similar reporting systems are being discussed in Everett and Springfield, where $1.6 billion and $800 million resorts, respectively, are planned to open by the end of 2017.
“The thing we like about it is we’re starting it at the slots parlors, smaller, we’ll be able to tweak it,” Cameron said. “By the time we take it up to Springfield and Everett, it will be in really good shape and we’ll have some lessons learned.”
Under state law, state police have exclusive jurisdiction to patrol casinos. But a deal is being finalized that would put Plainville officers along with 10 state troopers on a task force assigned to the slots parlor.
The “Gaming Enforcement Unit” would all share the same radio frequency and all be able to respond to casino calls, and their salaries will be paid out of the Gaming Commission’s budget.