PDT Staff Writer
As of Friday, area residents are going to begin to notice a higher concentration of Portsmouth police officers activity, and in a more proactive, rather than reactive mode.
When the current recession began, the federal government responded with the Recovery Act to attempt to pump more money into communities to jump-start the economy.
“As a part of that Recovery Act we received a $480,000 grant to hire three officers, the stipulation being that we had to be at our full table of organization to take advantage of these grants,” Portsmouth Police Chief Robert Ware said. “Essentially, three years into that, we were going to lose the money if we didn’t hire the officers.”
Because of the city’s financial woes, hiring more officers did not fit within the dwindling budget. The current City Charter calls for a full compliment of 44 police officers, but the current stafffing level is at about 38. This would be a problem when it came to going after the grant which had seven objectives required to qualify for the money, one of which was to bring more officers onto the force.
Ware went back to the federal governement and asked them to allow him to complete the other six objectives. He was given the opportunity to apply, showing the other six objectives. He applied.
“We put a proposal together, submitted it, and they granted it,” Ware said. “On one hand, there’s probably more money than we can spend over the remainder of the grant period (Seven months remain), But on the other hand, it allows us to just take off and rock and roll.”
Ware calls the new operation PASS (Proactive Approach to the Safety and Security of the city). Ware said, since the department has been short-staffed for three years, it caused the department to become reactive. That changed as of Friday.
“What this grant rewrite will allow us to do is get out there and target the problems,” Ware said. “Put directed patrols and go after the problems before they become crimes and not reacting to them after someone has been victimized.”
Ware said the department will be out there trying to prevent and combat drug related and other crime. They will also be targeting the city’s high-fatality traffic areas (high crash intersections), and, related to that, recognizing that some pedestrians have been killed. He said his force will look at drug interdiction patrols, OVI (Operating a Vehicle under the Influence of alcohol and/or drugs) patrols.
“So what we’re going to do is go out and attack that; attack the drugs; attack the burglaries and B & E’s (Breaking and Entering). We’re going to have people out there in plain clothes, unmarked cars, out strictly doing criminal patrol; doing the prostitution stings, and then the traffic enforcement,” Ware said. “So you’re going to see a lot of us, but there’s going to be a lot more of us that you won’t see that are out there.”
Ware said, in addition to the overtime money the grant provides, there will also be additional training available to officers, as well as public service announcements to help educate the public.
“We also were awarded the money to purchase and train our next canine, as opposed to waiting until this canine retires, and not having a canine waiting and available while we wait for the training for the replacement,” Ware said. “Now we’re going to be proactive and be ahead of the ballgame and have that second dog ready, so that when this one retires or gets injured in the line of duty and can no longer continue because of its age, the dog is already on the street, ready to go.”
The activity the department will focus on include, “drug enforcement activities,” focused motor vehicle traffic enforcement and focused community outreach activities.
“Our intent over this next seven-month period is to clean this city up,” Ware said.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at email@example.com