For the last few weeks I have had a major pergola construction project at my house. To be clear, I know nothing about carpentry, or building, or anything related to the project at hand. As a result, a very good friend offered to help me with the project who had the skills and expertise to manage the job. Imagine my relief knowing there was someone who cared enough to help me in my critical time who had the expertise to get the job done right. I imagine that is the feeling our citizens get when they call for help and see one of our police officers arrive, knowing things will be alright. I relied on a professional for my home improvement project, just as you rely on responsive, trusted officers when needed.
In 2018, Montrose police officers handled 31,234 incidents, many of those being calls for help by our citizens. Of those incidents, 724 were felony crimes we investigated. Most often investigated by our patrol officers, that is over two felony crimes per day on average. Since 2010, our citizens have experienced a 51% increase in felony crime.
Our community has a drug problem that continues to expand its presence on a daily basis. In July 2019, our officers recovered 57 grams of methamphetamine and 69 grams of heroin. Our citizens may not know that on average we staff four officers and a supervisor on the street at any given time.
Citizens may not know the amount of work, resources, and efforts that are required of many of our cases, especially cases involving armed robbery, deaths, and sexual assault. In the last few months, three of our detectives and their supervisor spent countless hours investigating an armed robbery by tracking down leads, interviewing witnesses, and provided the necessary reports to the district attorney’s office for that one case. Within the same months, those detectives investigated multiple deaths, sexual assault reports, and other felony crime incidents. The average sex assault case takes over 60 person hours to investigate, and unfortunately most of those reports involve children. With only three detectives they cannot handle the load, thus felony cases go to patrol. This means less time to be proactive.
These statistics are important and concerning, but we are not without hope because the Montrose Police Department has a plan: Intelligence Led Policing (ILP). ILP is a proactive model of policing led through intelligent data gathering to focus on the top offenders in our community. By disrupting and displacing their criminal activity, we will make our community a safer place to live. This means hiring professional men and women to work in proactive roles such as street crimes enforcement to focus on drug dealers and drug houses, traffic officers to curb road rage, distracted driving, DUI offenders, adding more school resource officers to make our schools safer, and on-boarding more detectives to investigate felony crimes. With these additions, we will allow our street officers to become more proactive and spend more time with our citizens in a community policing role.
Our men and women are ready to take on this new challenge, if given the opportunity. However, there is another challenge we face. In 1998, the Montrose Police Department moved into the old Montrose library and we have operated out of that building for the last 20 years. The constraints placed on us by the current facility forced us to modify our work processes resulting in less efficiency. Quite simply, we are out of room. Enhanced building efficiency will result in getting our officers in and out much more quickly in response to calls thus reducing our response times.
I have described to you the proactive plan, the need for specific resources, to include a space to work and be more efficient, but I want to describe to you an aspect that is rarely shared with our community. What is it like to be a police officer and feel like you are making a difference in your community? Police officers are not in it for the money, we work in the public sector to serve our community in a proud and honorable profession. This work is done by individuals who have answered a calling, an opportunity to help someone at the time of their most critical need. This is tough work that eventually takes a toll due to frequently experiencing things no human being should. In speaking with one supervisor recently, she relayed that our officers are excited for new opportunities, such as new programs with the potential to be more proactive, and the chance to hire more officers.
Your Montrose Police officers and support staff are great men and women who serve this community with distinction. They are the mechanism which will make our community safe for all our citizens. I wanted to share the police department’s resource-driven, proactive plan to reduce crime in our city to make it a safe place to work and live. We are dedicated to the service of you, the citizens of Montrose.
Blaine Hall is the chief of police for the Montrose Police Department.