Crime rates are down

Published 10:53 am Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Crime in the Town of Farmville has declined, according to Police Chief A.Q. “Andy” Ellington’s annual State of the Department report — one discussed before town council members on March 1.

“Crime is down. Yay,” Ellington said as he detailed the 16-page report. “I couldn’t believe it. Both property crimes are down and violent crimes this year.”

According to the report, in a “head-to-head comparison” from last year, overall crime numbers were down by 68 offenses.

“Violent crime, which includes simple assault, for comparison was down by 13 offenses,” officials stated in the report. “Using a four-year average of crime as a measurement for comparison, we find that the average for total crimes is 431.75. In 2016, we are down 20.7 percent from the four-year average.”

“I give credit to the officers for their daily performance … They’re doing a tremendous job,” Ellington said during the council’s work session.

Calls for service were down from the average, Ellington said.

“The four-year average call for service demand is 9,497 calls per year. 2016 resulted in a reduction of 741 calls for service as compared to the average,” the report stated.

According to Ellington’s report, “Farmville continues to be one of the safest communities in the state.”

The report highlights the agency’s mission, goals, accomplishments, measurable outcomes, recruitment, advances in technology and accreditation.

“We started the (state) accreditation process eight years ago,” Ellington said. “And, when we started this process, our department was in shambles. It really was. And to see where we were and where we have come, we couldn’t do it without you,” he told the council.

“I’m happy to say we just finished (the accreditation process) this morning at 9 o’clock, and out of 189 files, we had one returned to us that we had corrected immediately and we came out with flying colors. We are reaccredited for another four years. We’ll be going up to receive the accreditation certificate May 11 in Warrington. So, that is a huge relief,” he said.

Ellington complimented Dale Dowdy, the department’s accreditation manager.

After highlighting recent staffing changes, which he said had led to an upshift in positions, Ellington said one concern he has “that I will be asking council to support me with and to look (at), it may not be this year, it may be next year … is the addition of four police officers. The reason being, we need to evaluate the need because we currently have four patrol sergeants, four corporals, 10 officers. Each night shift consists of a sergeant, a corporal and three patrolmen. Each day shift patrol consists of a sergeant, a corporal and two patrolmen.”

Citing legislative changes affecting emergency custody orders (ECOs) and temporary detention orders (TDOs), Ellington said, “We’re now tasked on a daily basis with sitting with ECOs at the hospital, which require a minimum of eight hours of a police officer’s time. So, as soon as we get a call, an ECO, and because (Centra) Southside (Community Hospital) is here, we have to take this ECO and sit with it until the (TDO) is issued for transportation to a facility anywhere within the state. If the person lives outside of the town of Farmville, then they have to come get him. If he is in the town of Farmville, then we lose an officer for (an) additional probably four hours to transport this subject anywhere in the state”

“Very quickly we can get down to two officers,” Ellington said. “I just don’t think it’s safe at all that we have two officers trying to … police this town at any given time anymore. So, that’s something that I would like to work with council on and (initiate)the beginning the stages of.”

Ellington cited new hotels under construction and renovation, the approved apartment complex off South Main Street near Walmart, an expansion of Callaway Trailer park, the recent Immigration Centers of America expansion and a potential baseball stadium downtown before noting, “trying to police that with three, four officers is really beginning to become a task.”

In 2016, he said the U.S. Vice Presidential Debate at Longwood University “consumed most of” the department’s time.

As accomplishments, Ellington cited fleet improvements, new uniforms, new Tasers and community outreach programs.

“With the debate, we were able to get a total of over six new cars that took away the entire rainbow fleet. We no longer have a rainbow fleet,” he said, referring to the different-colored vehicles once used by the department.

“I can’t tell you enough how many compliments I get on a daily basis …,” he said of the department’s new uniforms. “They’re very comfortable; they’re very professional. The officers really like them … that’s a huge plus to the professionalism of this organization.”

“The biggest performance of the year was the (U.S.) Vice Presidential Debate,” Ellington said while discussing measureable outcomes. “I can’t tell you how pleased I was with everybody coming together, the unity of the whole town, college and how well things went over … Praises to everyone on that.”

“We do so many community outreach programs,” Ellington noted. “With such a small department, I think we’re probably doing more than any department in the area. We’re doing 26 community outreach programs a year. And National Night Out (NNO) has proven by far to be one of the largest.”

The department’s NNO awards and accomplishments keep “moving up the ranks,” he said. According to the report, last year, Farmville’s NNO “was ranked 18th among jurisdictions with a population of 5,000-15,000.”

Highlighting working with other agencies and area schools and college, he noted the drug takeback program involves officers of the Longwood University Police Department, along with Farmville’s police officers.

“Recruitment’s been a big thing (and will) continue to be a big thing for the police department,” Ellington said. “We’ve been fortunate that we’ve brought on three very good police officers that were actually local in the past year.”

“The recruitment process for police officers has greatly changed over the years,” Ellington said in the report. “The most effective method to recruit new professional officers in a small department is to have current officers encourage men and women they know to complete an application. Personal knowledge of the character of an individual is an excellent recruitment strategy, and one that assists us in our efforts of diversifying the agency. Another critical element of recruiting is maintaining attractive and competitive salaries, benefits and equipment to demonstrate a commitment to professional policing.”

While discussing the department’s goals, objectives and strategies, Ellington commended his officers for following through the department’s mission statement “on a daily basis.”

“We have a lot of talented young men and women right here in our community that we’re overlooking,” Ellington said regarding recruitment. “I can tell you some of the finest police officers in the state police, in our department and other agencies around come from Piedmont Regional Jail.”

“We continue to utilize crime analytics in our patrol strategies to be proactive. It’s something (former Police) Chief (Curtis) Davis and I started implementing last year was to a proactive, not reactive, department. We track crime now. We put officers in the areas where crime is. Right now, our biggest call for service is Callaway Trailer Park.”

A patrol strategy has been implemented, he said, for that area.

“I want to implement the DARE Program at Fuqua School. It’s never been done,” Ellington told town council. “It’s important that we educate our children on drugs and alcohol … I’ve already met with the president of Fuqua School and I’ve got a DARE officer already certified and we’ll be implementing that program this month. That is on it’s way.”