Police ID theft work earns international recognition

Webber Seavey Award is law enforcement 'Oscar'
by: Submitted photo, Beaverton Police Chief David Bishop and Management Analyst Michelle Harrold accept the agency’s international award.

Beaverton Police Department efforts to fight identity theft and fraud have earned it a prestigious international award.

In the law enforcement world, receiving a Webber Seavey Award is as big as it gets.

A Webber Seavey Award for Quality in Law Enforcement recognizes innovative policing programs that can serve as models for law enforcement agencies around the world.

It's the International Association of Chiefs of Police's highest award given to three agencies each year who exemplify law enforcement's most successful contributions to the quality of life in local communities.

This year's awards were presented Oct. 16 during the association's annual conference in Boston.

Recipients included Beaverton's Identity Theft and Fraud Prevention Program, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's Aboriginal Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit to fight drug smuggling and addiction in remote areas of Quebec and a program in India to combat an organized sex trade in the Nalgonda District of Andhra Pradesh.

'These law enforcement agencies are breaking new ground and leading the way for our profession,' said Chief Mary Ann Viverette of the Gaithersburg, Md., police force and association president. 'I am certain that these innovative programs will serve as a blueprint to help others develop and strengthen their agencies to make their communities safer.'

Mark Moon, a spokesman for Motorola, which sponsors the award, agreed.

'This year's Webber Seavey Award recipients are to be commended for stepping up in their own communities to solve problems that in some cases have festered for years,' Moon said. 'We are especially pleased to see the strong participation and recognition of programs from both inside and outside the United States, which serves to inspire innovative policing worldwide.'

A total of 123 law enforcement agencies from around the world submitted their crime-fighting programs for recognition this year.

A panel of law officials and previous winners selected the top three programs, as well as seven finalists and 15 semi-finalists.

'I don't know that I've ever been more proud to represent this agency, our community and the elected officials who secured the seed money we needed to put this program together,' said Beaverton Police Chief David Bishop. 'It's hard to explain how proud I am of what we have accomplished with this program.

'We need to compliment the community for working with us. The key to our success is it's an ongoing program.'

Good as it gets

The Identity Theft and Fraud Prevention Program began in 2003 with the assistance of congressionally mandated grant funds of $248,375 through the Department of Justice.

After analyzing calls for service, Beaverton police tracked a significant increase in identity theft and fraud cases, up 54 percent in just four years, mirroring a national trend.

To tackle the problem, a planning committee outlined, organized and developed a multi-faceted program focusing on enhanced investigations, community education and victims' assistance.

The department formed a Special Enforcement Unit and during its first two years, members of the unit made 494 fraud-related arrests, prevented the loss of more than $701,000 from citizens and businesses and recovered $33,170, said Michelle Harrold, a management analyst with Beaverton police.

The department also partnered with a banking industry group to solve a case involving more than $126,450.

'The team really hit the streets and worked with our local retailers to try to change habits that put their businesses at risk,' Harrold said.

The department also created identity theft prevention literature that officers distributed to businesses and residents, organized educational seminars and free workshops for the community and offered 10 free shredding events for people to safely destroy sensitive documents.

Officers and police volunteers also received special training to provide victims with assistance.

'I've felt really honored and proud to be part of this program from the beginning,' Harrold said. 'We've been able to work hard and accomplish a lot of great things.

'I felt very privileged to represent the department with the chief in Boston as we received recognition for this program. Being recognized by your peers is about as good as it gets.'