BOSTON (STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE) – After a full year in operation, Plainridge Park Casino and the surrounding area did not experience significant changes in crime or call-for-service levels, though the slots parlor may contribute to an uptick in credit card fraud in the area, a crime analyst told the Gaming Commission on Thursday.
Gaming Commission consultant and crime analyst Christopher Bruce presented the commission with a crime analysis for the first full year of gaming at the Plainville slots parlor. The analysis, which covered July 2015 through June 2016, found that the level of crime at Plainridge Park is “commensurate with similarly-sized and trafficked facilities.”
Among the most common crimes at the slots parlor during the first year it was open were theft of gaming credits, theft of personal property, intoxicated or obnoxious behavior on the casino floor, drug use or distribution in the parking lot, and in three instances a small child was left alone in a car while their guardian gambled, Bruce said.
“We are seeing a number of thefts of the TITO tickets, people snatching them out of the machine or surreptitiously ejecting them from the machine while the player isn’t noticing and then turning them in for cash,” Bruce told the commission, referring to the barcoded slip of paper that a slot machine player can redeem for their winnings. “We have some thefts of personal property, purses and wallets and so forth.”
Bruce said that in cases of ticket or personal property theft, the security staff at Plainridge Park has a suspect identification rate of nearly 100 percent, meaning the people involved in such incidents are apprehended in almost every instance.
“That actually is an amazing number. I have never seen a number that high. It’s more than just surveillance, it really is the level of cooperation … between Plainridge PD, we have the State Police working very well together with the gaming agents, with security at the casino and with surveillance at the casino,” Commissioner Gayle Cameron, the former deputy superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, said. “Do not commit a crime at this casino, because 100 percent of the time we’re going to get you.”
In the first year the slots parlor was open, the town of Plainville itself saw no change in its violent crime rate, a 10 percent increase in property crime, a 14 percent increase in total crime and a 3 percent increase in calls for service, Bruce said. Helping to mitigate those increases are five new police officers — a 36 percent expansion of the town’s force — funded through the town and Gaming Commission’s host community agreement.
“As for the surrounding community, we’re not seeing much of an impact on crime and calls for service,” Bruce said. “Overall crime is down in the surrounding area, violent crime is up slightly but not for casino-related reasons, property crime is down considerably and calls for service vary depending on the call type.”
Bruce’s analysis, he said, used public safety data from the records systems of Plainville, Attleboro, Mansfield, North Attleboro, Wrentham, and the Massachusetts State Police.
The presence of the slots parlor and the thousands of people it attracts, Bruce told the commission, are likely fueling an increase in traffic-related issues, particularly in Plainville and North Attleborough.
“Obviously when thousands of more cars come to an area you’re probably going to see an increase in traffic collisions, traffic complaints, things like disabled vehicles,” he said. “You get a lot of extra people in the area so they’re reporting more lost property, citizens are reporting more suspicious activity, things like that, things that are caused by just the influx of additional people in the community are part of the increase we’re seeing.”
Pointing to data showing the number of reports of credit card fraud in the Plainville area have been above the five-year average almost every month since Plainridge Park opened, Bruce told the commission that the “increase in credit card fraud in the area, I think, is likely related” to the slots parlor.
Bruce said the commission could interpret his use of the word likely to mean, “more than 50 percent likely or explains more than 50 percent of certain patterns we’re seeing here.”
But Cameron disagreed with Bruce’s suggestion that the increase in fraud is “likely” related to Plainridge Park, saying that she has not seen any hard evidence linking the rise in fraud to the slots parlor.
“There is an increase so you have to think about why there is an increase. But when we sat with all the chiefs and really went through this, not one of the chiefs had any information that it was related to a casino,” she said. “I think it’s important to point out that the chiefs all sat in a room and talked about this extensively and could not in any way say that this was related to the casino, the increase in credit card fraud.”