Danville police chief says crime stats pinpoint focus areas

February 08, 2004|GARY MOYERS

The release of the 2003 Danville crime statistics makes Chief Jeff Peek believe his department is focusing its efforts in the right areas.

But, he also believes the numbers pinpoint areas in which his officers need to improve.

The statistics released detail the number of cases investigated in various categories, including vehicular incidents, violent crimes, burglaries and thefts, and drug arrests.

One category, vehicular incidents, including injury accidents, collisions, and drunken driving cases, showed a marked increase over the 2002 totals. Peek believes the rise stemmed from more officers on the streets than in the previous year - there are currently 31 officers working, compared to 23 in 2002.

"With more officers dedicated to patrolling and being proactive, we were obviously able to detect more impaired drivers," said Peek. "Federal grants, the primary focus of which was on impaired drivers and occupant restraint, allowed us to put our officers outside their normal shift hours to look specifically for certain violations and not be hindered by routine calls and shift activity. The violations have been there all along, but staffing shortages caused us to be very reactive and call-driven. The federal grant monies allowed us to focus on these issues without taking away our service to the community."


Peek pointed to the three-month closure of the viaduct last summer and a new entrance onto the bypass in front of Lowe's as contributing factors in the rise of traffic violations.

"The closure of the viaduct threw the traffic patterns off over the summer and caused a heavier concentration of vehicle traffic on the south end," he said. "And, the new intersection at May Boulevard and the bypass has been the location of many accidents. This is a concern of ours, and we are working on ways to address that situation.

"In all, the increase was not as dramatic as we had feared when we began to look at the numbers for last year. Of more concern is the rise in injury accidents. I attribute these to speed and unrestrained occupants. We are working on a new initiative this year and plan to target excessive speed and hazardous moving violations especially on the south end."

Drug-related arrests were up considerably

Drug-related arrests were up considerably, from 98 in 2002 to 147 in 2003. Peek said that particular statistic had other consequences as well.

"We are addressing the drug problem that already existed here," said Peek. "Believing that drugs are the motivation behind a majority of crimes against property, we devoted more resources to the investigation of drug trafficking and related activities. Our contention is that when we affect the supply of drugs, the criminal activity that is the source for funding the drug traffickers will be similarly affected. We put some people in jail this year and certain crimes stopped. You draw your own conclusions."

Peek pointed out that there were differences in both staffing and funding in the two years detailed in the statistics.

"In 2003, the department was able to fill vacancies that existed the year before," he said. "By May, all the new officers were on their own, and we began to reassign personnel to the investigations section and 'beefed up' each shift with additional officers."

Peek also listed more citizen involvement as a reason for more arrests in certain areas.

"I want to be sure and give credit to certain members of the community who assisted us in our investigations and drug enforcement efforts this past year," he said.

"It is so important to have the eyes and ears of the citizens in our community, and this past year was an exceptional year for citizens to step forward and help. We received phone calls and letters with information on people we were looking at and even had some people volunteer their houses and property for us to use. We especially thank those who were willing to step forward and help the community combat the drug problem."

Peek said the statistics identify problem areas.

"We use the stats to monitor trends and patterns," he said. "When we see a rise in a particular area, we will see if we can identify why it occurring and if it is a temporary or long-term problem. We will prioritize the situation and formulate a plan to address it.

"Stats help us to evaluate our success in addressing a problem and to decide how to continue."

Peek said information gleaned from the statistics provides a guidebook for 2004 initiatives.

"Training is a top priority of the department," he said. "With such a young department and the evolving trends in law enforcement, it is imperative that we constantly re-evaluate our capabilities and seek out the most up-to-date methods and technology."

One roadblock to these goals is money, Peek said.

"Funding remains a concern, and we are constantly seeking alternative means to pay for equipment and overtime," he said. "We received almost $20,000 cash in forfeitures last year, and we have at least one vehicle we intend to file to have forfeited to us when the case is finished. We also rely heavily on grants."

"I have plans for a 35-officer department and currently we are at 31," he said. "With 33 we can accomplish even more than we have."

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