Portsmouth Deputy Police Chief re: ‘Traffic Inquiry’

“Our rough numbers run today show approximately 4,680 car stops in 2013 resulting in 2,080 tickets/written warnings and 2,600 verbal warnings.  As we discussed our goal is to impact the driver’s behavior.  If we can accomplish that with just a verbal warning, we are happy with that.  I suggest our traffic enforcement should be judged based on the number of car stops we make, not tickets written.

“As promised I wanted to provide some of the reasons behind our current numbers.  In short we are in the midst of a transition brought about by years of budget cuts and reductions.  In the past few years we had to downsize, downgrade and reorganize the police department to cover the workload of over 10 staff lost (over 20,000+hrs of work annually) and that has been very challenging.  Essentially we were forced to go from a department that was extremely proactive to one that was largely reactive.  We lost not only officers on the street but also school resource officers and detectives.

“However, we are gaining more equilibrium with the implementation of each step of our short term plan.

“Downtown foot patrols are back for 16 hours a day utilizing 1 to 2 officers depending on the hour of day/day of week.

“The 2-officer traffic/back-up car, which covered a portion of 4 zones has been split.  Two 1-officer back-up cars now split the entirety of Portsmouth into North and South during the hours or 7pm and 3am.  This allows for greater officer safety and better response times to those in the community who are in need.  Additionally their patrol areas have them driving through different areas of the center of town over the course of their shifts.  This has resulted in an increased presence in the downtown, and we are getting positive feed-back on these changes.

“We revisited our school resource officers partnership with the school department. The SRO positions go a long way to combating law enforcement related juvenile issues.  It also allows us to develop positive relationships with the youth in our city, an investment that carries into adulthood.  We have restored the commitment of the middle school and elementary school SRO’s.

“We have put a strong emphasis on Community and Problem Oriented policing, but not in the traditional sense, as the old model was manpower intensive. Instead, we have designated a detective to head this initiative.  Detective Jacques will be working with all the neighborhood groups, downtown bars and restaurants, and with our own officers on community partnerships.  He will be looking at underlying issues to repetitive calls for service such as drunk and disorderly persons, graffiti, and other chronic problems. What makes these issues particularly challenging is that they are always morphing and always in flux.  The goal here is that by addressing underlying issues, we may be able to prevent the crimes from happening in the first place.

“We know our community expects its agency to assess, control and prevent crime; to this end, on the patrol side, we also needed to put new tools in the officer’s hands.   While nothing takes the place of feet on the ground, technology can assist and supplement this in truly amazing ways.  We want our officers to pair this technology with traditional policing to get the best of both worlds.  We are installing CrimeView dashboard, which will allow us to use data to drive our directed.  It puts significant data analysis at the fingertips of the officer on the street, as well as supervisors and command staff.

“2014 arrived with a significant up-tick in heroin use, overdoses and case activity.  We have focused a lot on combating this issue through specialized assignments as well as creative policing strategies like the Community Access to Recovery Day we lead in July.  We continue to be one of the communities with the highest liquor licenses per capita in the state and new bars and restaurants continue to open.

“We were just able to secure funding for a new officer from the current city council to replace one of the 10 that have been cut.  This officer will go to our patrol division, we are also currently down one officer due to a retirement.  We are in the process of screening candidates for those two positions.

“As we begin what sometimes feels like a slow journey from reactive policing back to our past of proactive policing I expect you will see the number of traffic stops increase.  Traffic enforcement is not only a key and vital role for a patrol officer to undertake, but it is also one of the leading ways of preventing crime and catching criminals.  Our officers have been recognized at the state level for “Looking Beyond the Traffic Ticket,” essentially discovering serious criminal activity during a “routine” traffic stop.  We are committed to improving our traffic enforcement and proactive efforts.”

— Portsmouth Deputy Police Chief Corey MacDonald, email of 8/25/2014 re: “Traffic Inquiry”

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