In June, the Owensboro Police Department reinstated its "flex team," a unit of officers assigned to curb incidents of violence, particularly on the city's west side.

In the six months since the team was reactivated, the unit's officers have filed hundreds of drug charges, issued more than 400 arrest warrants and have spent slightly less than 500 hours on "selective enforcement" in areas of known or suspected criminal activity.

The department is keeping the team working, OPD Public Information Officer Andrew Boggess said Wednesday.

"At this point, I don't think there are any plans to cease the flex team," Boggess said. "While it has been successful, I don't think there are any plans to stop."

The flex team is a special detachment of officers working on the west side in addition to the regular patrol officers. The team was created last year and worked for two months in response to numerous reports of gunshots, particularly on the west side.

A new flex team was formed after a June fatal shooting on West Ninth Street, which had been preceded by homicides in March on West Eighth Street and in January on Audubon Avenue. Arrests have been made in all of those incidents.

"Overall, the violent crime has trended down over several months" since the flex team was reestablished, Boggess said. Flex team members respond to calls of violence, such as reports of firearm discharges, do investigations and issue arrest warrants, and make contact with residents in west-side neighborhoods.

Since June, officers assigned to the flex team have logged 6,879 minutes of foot patrol time, which allows the officers to talk to people in their neighborhoods, Boggess said.

"That's hours and hours of just being out there," he said. "I think it's a comforting thing for the community, and there's a deterrent effect."

The team members have issued 320 drug charges since June along with 23 weapons charges. The officers on the team also issued "over 400 warrants," Boggess said.

The team members augment the patrol officers by responding to calls like firearm discharges that would have been responded to by patrol. While the team is not in the area to take regular calls, they do respond to crime calls and make traffic stops if they see violations. Boggess said the flex team has issued 800 warnings to drivers.

"A lot of times, they elect to give warnings than charge someone with a traffic offense," Boggess said.

"Violent crime is certainly their primary focus, but they will ... react to any kind of crime," Boggess said.

Violent crime has declined since the flex team was reestablished.

"Talking to community members ... they feel the community is safer than it was a few months ago," Boggess said. "The flex team has been effective by any measure you use."

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

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