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Aside

Tuesday, January 28, 2014, marked the fourth anniversary of the line of duty death of Lieutenant Eric Shuhandler; Eric was shot and killed during a traffic stop at Val Vista and Baseline. Eric should be remembered not only for his service to the Gilbert Police Department and the Town of Gilbert, but also as a loving father of two beautiful daughters.

We began a new tradition this year called the “Pride and Honor” event.  The event began with a brief service at Rob Targosz’s memorial marker on Gilbert Road.  At the completion of the service, runners and bike riders followed the power line trail to Val Vista Road, then north to Lieutenant Shuhandler’s memorial marker.  At Eric’s marker blue ribbons were tied to the marker pole and honors were rendered. The goal of the event was to demonstrate pride in our department, pride in our noble profession, and pride in the community. Honor represents the honor of selfless service, honoring those who have fallen in service to our community, and honoring our public safety workers who currently serve, have served in the past, and will serve in the future.  I wish to express my sincere appreciation to the awards committee who planned the event.  I also wish to thank everyone who participated.

We will again gather on the morning on April 30th, at about 7 a.m., the anniversary of Officer Rob Targosz’s death – the first public safety line of duty death in the history of the Town of Gilbert. The route will be reversed, beginning at Lieutenant Shuhandler’s marker and ending at Officer Targosz’s marker. The route will be broken into segments to allow those who do not wish to run or ride the entire route, to participate.  We also hope to invite our brothers and sisters from the Fire Department to join us. The annual memorial service at the Gilbert Public Safety Complex will be moved to approximately 9 a.m., following the run / ride event. The awards committee will be planning the events and will be issuing additional information soon.

I am also happy to announce a joint venture project with the Chandler Police Department.  On January 30, Commander Pete Smith and budget staff presented a proposal to the Gilbert Town Council requesting initial authorization to implement a joint detention holding facility.  The proposal calls for using our existing facility, with staff and equipment from both departments. Council approved our request and gave their support for this project. This will allow us to operate continuous (24/7) holding facility for arrestees who have not received their initial appearance.  By combining resources, the facility will also be able to accommodate felony arrestees and persons ordered incarcerated by the court following initial appearance. This joint venture will benefit both agencies in increased efficiency and reduced costs of prisoner processing.  It will keep sworn resources on the street and reduce the number of prisoner trips to and from Phoenix.

Some minor modifications and upgrades to our holding facility are needed to bring it up to current standards.  We will begin to finalize construction and upgrade costs and to seek formal approval from the council to use contingency funding for our share of the costs with Chandler paying half. If the project receives final approval, we hope to have the modifications completed by July 1, 2014.  We will be requesting two detention transport supervisors, to supplement Chandler’s one supervisor, to facilitate continuous operations.  One additional detention officer position will be provided by Chandler.

Our goal is to have the jail facility operational within the first quarter of FY15 (July – September, 2014). I commend our staff and the budget office for the efforts that have gone into developing this partnership. This is another fine example of our commitment to identifying cost effective solutions to challenges facing our organization, and our willingness to seek out partnerships to enhance service levels.

Additional congratulations go out to Commander Pete Smith who successfully completed the Homeland Security Masters’ Degree Program through the Naval Postgraduate School. Pete competed nationally for acceptance into this 18 month program which he completed in December.

January was a big month for retirements. Records/Property Manager Anna Ames, Officer Joe Gilligan, Officer/Legal Advisor Kate Weiby, Detective Brenda Tomory, and Interim Records Manager Kenna Espersen have recently retired from GPD. All have served with honor and distinction for many years and they all will be missed. I wish them well in their future endeavors and thank them for their service.  We are in the recruitment and hiring process for the Records Manager and supervisor. We also hope to have a Counseling Manager hired very soon.

National Citizen Survey Results

The Town of Gilbert recently received the results of the National Citizen Survey.  The survey is a collaborative effort between National Research, Inc. and the International City/County Management Association. It provides us an opportunity to assess the quality of life and customer service attitudes in our community and to compare ourselves against local and national benchmarks. The National Citizen Survey replaced the Town of Gilbert Head of Household Survey this year.

Overall, Gilbert did very well, 31 of 35 town services exceeded the national benchmark.  Only one service, drinking water, ranked below the national average. The following information is from the survey and pertains to overall quality of life and to police services in Gilbert:

  • 98% rated Gilbert as an excellent or good place to live.
  • 96% rated Gilbert as excellent or good in regard to overall quality of life.
  • 92% rated the overall image or reputation of Gilbert as excellent or good.
  • 91% felt safe from violent crime.
  • 79% felt safe from property crime.
  • 95% felt safe in their neighborhoods during the day.
  • 90% felt safe in their neighborhoods at night.
  • 7% reported being the victim of a crime, of which, 90% of the crimes were reported.
  • 86% felt safe driving on roadways in Gilbert
    • 80% feeling safe in regard to speed
    • 62% feeling safe in regard to aggressive driving
    • 57% feeling safe regarding impaired driving.
  • 92% rated police service as excellent or good.
  • 85% rated crime prevention services as excellent or good.
  • 79% rated traffic enforcement as excellent or good.
  • 77% rated the value of services for the taxes paid as excellent or good.
  • 90% felt that the Town of Gilbert provides excellent or good services
  • (compared to 52% for the State of Arizona and 41% for the federal government)
  • 81% trust Town government officials.

Overall, our department, local government, and community can be very proud of these results.  They demonstrate that the majority of our citizens have trust and confidence in their local government and their police department; they feel safe in their homes, their neighborhoods, and on their roadways.  All of you, along with our partnership with the community, are directly responsible for these accomplishments. Your efforts do not go unnoticed.

Two articles were recently published regarding issues of concern related to the safety and wellness of law enforcement officers. The University of Nevada at Las Vegas published the findings of a study into automobile related deaths and injuries to law enforcement officers. Traffic related incidents were the leading cause of fatalities to officers for 14 of the last 15 years. Speed, distracted driving, and failure to wear safety belts were identified as the leading causes of death and serious injuries. Half of officers who have been killed in traffic collisions were not wearing safety belts.

This department has an excellent safety record with an exceptionally low ratio of collisions per miles driven. We have made driving safety a major focus of our department in an effort to increase safety for our officers and the public, and to reduce collision related claims and costs associated with repairs. Effective policies are in place and are adhered to by the vast majority of our employees. Thank you for your efforts in this area.

June Update

On June 6, the Town Council approved the final budget for FY14 which includes three police department positions, one lieutenant and two civilian patrol assistants (soon to be titled civilian patrol technicians).  Sergeant Pete Rangel will be promoted to lieutenant and assigned to Patrol.  Officer Patrick Portee will be promoted to sergeant and will fill Pete’s spot.  This will enable us to fill the current gaps in coverage in the patrol lieutenant schedule.

Patrol staffing allocations are based on patrol officers, crime suppression team officers, teleserve, and civilian patrol assistants.  The new CPAs will be included in the allocation to meet the requirements for staffing that have been identified by our staffing analysis system.  We will be broadening their job duties and responsibilities.  It will include conducting initial investigations of property crimes offenses (burglary, theft, vehicle burglary, auto theft) where there is no known suspect. They will conduct the initial investigation of the scene and conduct processing duties (collecting physical evidence, etc).  This will free up officers to handle calls for service that require a sworn response.  The CPAs will continue to investigate certain traffic collisions (such as non-injury and minor injury, non criminal incidents), abandoned vehicles and parking offenses.  Their tentative schedule will be: 0600-1600 Monday-Thursday, 1200-2200 Wednesday-Saturday, and 1200-2200 Sunday–Wednesday. This schedule may change based on a further analysis of calls for service data.  We are planning to recruit for these positions in October and have them hired in January, 2014.  Barring any unforeseen circumstances, these additions should provide us with sufficient staffing to maintain our current levels of excellent service in a cost effective and efficient manner.

Police staffing requirements are based on an analysis of patrol-related data, which combines calls for service data, along other workload data, and service goals.  Non-patrol positions are based on a ratio of patrol positions to planned build-out projections, or specific needs that are identified through benchmarking and needs assessments.  These are based on a variety of variables including current service goals, changes in legislation, caseloads or the needs of the community. Our department conducted a benchmarking study of 17 suburban communities with a population greater than 150,000.  Our study included other Arizona agencies as well as nationwide data from agencies included in the Benchmark Cities Survey (compiled by the Overland Park, KS, Police Department).  The following information was extracted from the benchmark analysis:

BENCHMARK

2011   AVERAGE

2011   GILBERT

Notes

Citizens per Sworn Officers

675.5

944.8

3rd Highest

Officers per 1,000 Residents

1.49

1.05

3rd Highest

% Sworn Line Officers

82.5%

84%

N/A

% Sworn Sergeant

12.3%

11%

N/A

% Sworn Lieutenant

3.9%

3.5%

N/A

% Sworn Command Staff

2.51%

1.3%

N/A

% Sworn Assigned to Investigations

14.3%

13%

N/A

 

% Sworn Assigned to K9

1.5%

1.3%

N/A

% Sworn Assigned to Patrol

54.5%

62%

N/A

% Sworn Assigned to Traffic

5.5%

7%

N/A

% Sworn Assigned to Narcotics

3.2%

3%

N/A

% Sworn Assigned to Schools

2.9%

5%

N/A

Dispatched Calls for Service per 1,000 Residents

544.6

295.3

2nd Lowest

Avg. Emergency Response time

5.57 Min.

4.0 Min.

4th Best

Part I Property Crimes Per 1,000

35.6

19.6

3rd Lowest

Part I Violent Crimes Per 1,000

3.0

0.96

Lowest

Total Part I Crimes per 1,000

38.6

20.6

3rd Lowest

Property Crime Clearance Rates

20.4

21.1

5th Highest

Violent Crime Clearance Rates

51.3

69.7

2nd Highest

Traffic Citations per 1,000 Residents

163.8

108.2

DUI Arrests per 1,000

4.95

8.75

2nd Highest

Collisions per 1,000 Residents

19.14

11.5

2nd Lowest

At-Fault Officer Involved Collisions per 100,000 Miles

1.4

0.4

Lowest

NOTE:  Staffing percentages = the percentage of total sworn officers in the position or assignment.

What does is this information tell us?  It shows us that we are continuing to operate with a very lean command and management staff, and that our supervisor staffing levels are slightly below the average.  Despite our lean staffing, we continually provide high levels of service and where possible use civilian employees to respond when sworn response is unnecessary.  This helps to control costs and to efficiently use our sworn personnel to carry out our mission of preventing, detecting, and deterring crime.  I am proud that we continue to meet success with most of our service goals and maintain very low crime rates and dispatched calls for service.  This is a result of our effective partnerships, effect tactics, and strategies.  At a recent IPTM Patrol Commanders course attended by Commanders Buckland and Smith, our department was repeatedly recognized by the instructors for our effective utilization of resources and tactics to reduce crime and develop community partnerships. We will continue to strive for excellence and to serve as a leader in public safety.

Using these studies and resulting data, we were able to show that the requested items and positions in the FY 13/14 budget were essential for maintaining our current levels of service.  The benchmarking data will be used to support future budget requests and identify needed areas of improvement.  We will continue to use our staffing analysis and needs assessments to adjust our staffing plan as necessary to meet the needs of our community and our department.

We continually work to identify cost containment measures to provide cost effective services to our citizens.  For example, a recent adjustment to the detention officers’ schedule is saving a significant amount of money each month.  Additionally, we have instituted audits of our detention invoices, which have identified potential overpayments to Maricopa County.

Please join me in welcoming home Officer Andrew Bates following his deployment to Afghanistan with the Arizona Army National Guard.  Andy will be recognized in the Town’s Operation Welcome Home ceremony.  We look forward to his return to his Gilbert PD extended family.

Uniform Crime Report Data for 2012

The Uniform Crime Report (UCR) data is now available for calendar year 2012. Overall, 219 violent crimes were reported in 2012, increasing 34 offenses over CY2011. 3,480 property offenses were reported, was a decrease of 450 offenses from CY2011. Total Party I crimes dropped from 4,115 offenses in 2011 to 3, 699 offenses in 2012 for a total reduction of 416 offenses (10% reduction in Part I Crimes). Initial comparisons with other valley cities, and communities in the state with populations greater than 100,000, shows that Gilbert has once again recorded the lowest rate of property crimes, violent crimes and overall crimes, as listed below:

CITY

VIOLENT CRIMES PER 1,000

PROPERTY CRIMES PER 1,000

TOTAL CRIMES PER 1,000

Gilbert

1.04

16.35

17.39

Maricopa

1.34

19.34

20.68

Surprise

1.33

20.90

22.24

Chandler *

1.98

21.06

23.04

Scottsdale

1.53

27.48

29.01

Peoria

1.89

29.91

31.80

El Mirage

2.64

29.74

32.38

Mesa

4.05

31.75

35.79

Phoenix**

5.28

34.25

39.53

Tempe

5.41

47.85

53.25

Tucson

7.30

62.46

69.76

Glendale

4.97

64.92

69.88

 

* Chandler data incomplete – through September

** Phoenix data incomplete – through October

This is a significant accomplishment for our police department and our great community, which is something that we can all be very proud of. Maintaining high levels of safety increases quality of life for our citizens and contributes to economic development efforts, which are vital to our future. Our tactics and strategies to detect, deter and prevent crime are working. The police department does not accomplish this on our own. Our partnership with our citizens, business community and other law enforcement agencies is a significant factor in achieving success. We will continue to adjust our tactics and strategies as needed and are always looking at best practices in our profession, and the use of technology, to provide high quality, cost effective services, to our community.

Current Public Safety Issues in Gilbert

I recently had an opportunity to address a group of community business leaders on current public safety issues in Gilbert and how we can work as partners to continue to maintain high levels of safety in our community. I would like to clarify some statements which appeared in a news article following the presentation.

Crime Trends and Concerns

We began 2012 with the lowest overall crime rate in Arizona and one of the lowest in the United States. Our violent crime rate was the lowest in Arizona and property crime rate was the second lowest in Arizona. Preliminary figures show that we continue to reduce property crime, with approximately 466 fewer victims of property crime this year. We have seen slight increases in some areas of violent crime, which follows a national trend. There were approximately 19 additional victims of violent crime this year as compared to 2011. Our homicide rate increased from 2 to 6, which was impacted by one domestic violence related homicide with four victims. All homicide cases have been cleared. The majority of our violent crime cases involve suspects who are known to the victim. Armed robbery is the only exception. Five of our homicides involved firearms; one involved a child death based on negligence.

Perceptions of Safety

I did state that levels of safety in the community should be based on our citizen’s perceptions of safety, rather than just statistics. Our Vision Statement was recently revised to reflect this: Gilbert; A community where people feel safe in their homes, in public places and on our roadways.  Overall, our citizens’ tell us that they do feel safe in our community. The best gauge of this is to drive around and see people in our parks, walking and bike riding in their neighborhoods, shopping in our businesses, and moving to our community. I did state that complacency is our biggest enemy and that the best way to reduce crime is to prevent it. Overall, Gilbert remains a very safe community. Working together, we can keep it that way.

Traffic Safety

Traffic safety remains a significant concern for our department and our residents. We have experienced increases in non-injury, injury and fatal traffic collisions, with an increase of 167 overall collisions. Speed and distracted driving remain leading factors that contribute to collisions. I did jokingly state that police officers are some of the worst drivers on the road when it comes to distracted driving, because we are forced to do things that we tell others not to do (when it comes to paying attention to the road). Our cars are equipped with computers to assist us in a timely response to calls for service, we are answering and listening to the police radio and are constantly looking around us as we are driving, looking for violations and suspicious activity. I also pointed out that our officers recognize this and are trained to adapt to these distractions. As a result, we have a very low collision rate and a very good safety record.  Only one officer involved accident occurred during 696,355 miles of driving in the first 9 months of 2012.  We hold our officers and ourselves accountable for following the same laws that we enforce.  Policies are in place that prohibits the use of cell phones and entering data into the computer, while the vehicle is in motion.

 

School Safety and Gun Violence

I did respond to a question from the audience on school safety and gun violence, stating that I would not get involved in the political discussions on this issue. I did state that there are two common denominators in mass shooting incidents; mental health and the accessibility of firearms by people with mental health issues. My comments about accessibility to firearms were in relation to people with mental health issues and criminals, not the overall accessibility to firearms. I did state that we need to set politics and emotion tied to this issue aside, in order to determine what can be done to reduce and prevent these senseless acts of violence. I did not, nor will I, attempt to offer any opinions on how that can be done. As a nation, we need to figure out how to reduce the opportunity for criminals and people who pose a threat to themselves and others from possessing firearms, while protecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens to possess firearms for self-protection, hunting and recreation. We also need to address the culture in our country that portrays violence and killing as “fun” and entertainment.

On the issue of school safety; I did state that this is an issue that is not restricted to schools. These acts of violence have occurred in schools, colleges, shopping malls, movie theaters, strip malls, government facilities and houses of worship. We need to be cautious about diverting police resources to one particular area, increasing vulnerability in other areas of the community. As a police department, we have an obligation to protect the entire community. We will continue to work with our school officials to evaluate the security needs on their campuses to keep our kids as safe as possible.

Tragic Events

The tragic events which occurred last week in Connecticut remind us that acts of violence can happen anywhere. Mass shooting incidents have occurred within shopping centers, houses of worship, movie theaters, colleges, high schools, and now at an elementary school. Any location, where there are gatherings of people, create an opportunity for such acts to occur. Our own community was victimized by a mass shooting incident this year, as a result of a domestic violence situation, within a home.

The Gilbert Police Department works closely with our school systems, the fire department and EMS to train and prepare for acts of violence or other unusual circumstances, which may occur on our school campuses, with the hope that we will never need to put our plans and training to use. Our public safety personnel and school staffs are well prepared for any such occurrence.

Shortly after being notified of the incident in Connecticut, Gilbert police officers increased their presence around private and public school facilities. We maintained contact with the East Valley Fusion Center in order to maintain situational awareness on any local potential threats. There was no information to indicate that there were any local or regional threats to our school systems or other locations.

The violent crime rate in Gilbert remains very low, and we cannot allow acts of violence to impact our quality of life. At the same time, we cannot afford to be complacent. Always be aware of your surroundings and have a plan to safeguard yourself, your family and your co-workers. Your plan should follow the philosophy of run, hide, fight. Flee the area if it is safe to do so. If you cannot safely flee, conceal yourself and others around you, in a secure location. As a last resort, fight back to protect yourself and others. Once law enforcement arrives, follow the directions of law enforcement officers. Additional information on this topic and a video can be found at http://www.in.gov/iifc/2395.htm

Intelligence-led Policing

The Gilbert Police Department embraces the principles of Intelligence-led Policing and Community policing in our philosophy and daily operations.

Intelligence-led policing is defined as a business model and management philosophy where data analysis and crime intelligence are pivotal to an objective, decision-making framework that facilitates crime and problem reduction, disruption and prevention through both strategic management and effective enforcement strategies that target prolific and serious offenders.

Community policing involves the police working with the community in order to maintain a perception of safety, reduce fear, identify and solve problems and reduce crime. Effective community policing is based on trust and partnership.

Community policing programs and intelligence-led policing programs are not in conflict with each other; they complement each other.

Our leadership team utilizes technology, data analysis, and information sharing with our neighboring law enforcement agencies to identify crime trends, repeat offenders, traffic collision trends and neighborhood concerns. Resources are then deployed to address these concerns. Officers and leadership are provided daily and weekly maps and crime data which identify the type and location of criminal offenses. Intelligence-led policing meetings are conducted monthly, bringing together our leadership, patrol representatives, criminal investigators, crime suppression officers and our crime analysts to develop tactics and strategies to address community concerns and emerging trends, and to assess the effectiveness of on-going crime and collision reduction operations.

The Data-Driven Approach to Crime and Traffic Safety (DDACTS) Program analyzes multi-year data to identify a geographic area with a larger than average level of calls for police service, property related offenses and traffic collisions. Patrol officers, our Crime Suppression Team and traffic enforcement officers are deployed into this area and given specific goals to increase the number of citizen contacts in order to detect and deter criminal activity and to reduce traffic collisions. We have developed a Smartphone App, which is now available through ITunes, which provides information on our program, statistical data, and status reports on the effectiveness of the program.

Short term emerging crime trends and collision trends are identified based on a geographical grouping of similar calls for service, or an increased demand of overall calls for service in a geographical area. Resources are allocated to these areas, based on the nature of the problems. Tactics and strategies are developed by our command staff, to address the specific problems. This type of strategy is referred to as “hot spot enforcement”.

The Crime Suppression Team is comprised of eight specially trained patrol officers under the supervision of a sergeant. The team utilizes marked cars, unmarked cars, bicycles and foot patrols to address community concerns and detect and deter criminal activity. Working in partnership with our Special Investigations Team, crime suppression officers are tasked with addressing neighborhood concerns, to include possible drug related activity, based on tips and information received from the public through our on-line tip program. Repeat offenders and career criminals are identified through our Intelligence and Analysis Unit and the East Valley Fusion Center. Crime suppression officers work with probation and parole officers to maintain frequent contact with these offenders in an effort to discourage future criminal activity.

Our department is increasing our presence on social media in order to improve communications with our citizens, which in turn builds trust and confidence between the police and the public. We encourage open communications in order to identify citizen and community concerns and to solicit community assistance in crime prevention and reduction.

Our efforts are paying off. An analysis of Uniform Crime Report (UCR) data, by the Arizona Republic, indicates that Gilbert experienced a 13.2% reduction in violent crime and a 5.5% reduction in property crime from 2010 to 2011. Gilbert ranked 15th among the 16 valley communities in violent crime (Paradise Valley ranked 16th) and 16th in property crimes, based on the number of crimes per 10,000 residents. The analysis shows that Gilbert has had the most significant decreases in overall crime in the last five years. The other piece of good news is that our neighboring cities are also experiencing reductions in overall crime. This demonstrates that our partnership with our neighbors is working. We want to impact crime overall, not just in our own community.

We need your help in order to maintain success. Good news on crime rates can lead to complacency. Continue to report suspicious activity to the police. Get to know, and watch out for your neighbors. Don’t keep valuables in your vehicles. Lock your vehicles and secure your homes and garages.

There are some who believe that lower crime rates should be accompanied with reductions in police staffing and resources. The best way to reduce crime is to prevent crime. The majority of our activities involve crime prevention and reduction, utilizing intelligence-led policing and community policing. Many of our service demands do not involve a reported crime. Emergency medical responses, neighborhood issues, traffic collisions and enforcement, public order offenses and protecting life and property often times does not involve a crime, but a police response may prevent a crime or reduce the likelihood of injury or death to a citizen. The Gilbert Police Department takes great pride in the level of service that we provide our citizens and are committed to service. Gilbert already has the lowest cost per citizen for police protection and the lowest staffing levels of any police department, serving a community of our size in Arizona. We are also well below the national average. Working together, we can continue to maintain low crime rates and a safe community.

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