Everyone -- not just police officers -- can make Whitehall safer.

That's the belief of Whitehall police Chief Mike Crispen, who said he is pleased with the success of this year's town-hall concept that he will carry into next year.

The first meeting was held in June at Victory Ministries Center of Hope; a second followed in October at Westphal Avenue Baptist Church.

Last month, Crispen showcased the department's K-9 units and school resource officers; in June, the spotlight was on its strategic plan.

"My intent is to have a focus for each one," Crispen said.

A third town hall is planned for February or March, he said, and might center on human trafficking, but no decision has been made yet on a date, location or agenda.

The goal of the meetings is to educate residents about how the department deploys its resources and how they can observe and help policy in myriad ways.

"Every day there are opportunities to help make Whitehall even safer," Crispen said.

At each town hall meeting, Crispen uses the opportunity to inform residents about the department's mission and policing practices.

"We have found our town-hall meetings are a very effective way to communicate," he said.

Crispen told residents who attended the most recent town-hall meeting that a short-term increase in arrests should not be viewed exclusively as a negative, nor does it equate to an increase in crime, but rather is the result of effective community policing.

The number of arrests, he said, is expected to decrease in the long term along with criminal activity as would-be criminals begin to recognize the dividends of breaking the law are no longer worth the risk.

During the third quarter of 2017, Crispen reported 1,029 people were arrested in Whitehall -- a 14 percent increase compared to the number of arrestees in the third quarter of 2016.

Theft arrests increased by 24 percent and drug-related arrests increased by 41 percent during the same time period.

Whitehall police have units dedicated to surveillance and investigation of both crimes.

Police conducted several retail-theft "blitzes" this year, cracking down on shoplifters and associated thefts at the city's largest retailers.

"It gets the message out to the bad guys that the risk outweighs the reward," Crispen said.

The town-hall meetings also are an opportunity for police to learn what is important and concerning to residents.

"We hear a lot about traffic and a lot about youth violence," Crispen said, the latter of which school resource officers are addressing this year.

In 2017, for the first time, full-time school resource officers are stationed at Whitehall-Yearling High School and Rosemore Middle School, with a third officer splitting time among the district's three elementary schools.

Crispen said he expects further progress in allaying such concerns if the city is successful in obtaining a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice for a new juvenile diversion program.

Mayor Kim Maggard said she is happy with the direction of the department under Crispen's leadership.

"(Crispen) knows the importance of community involvement and communication," Maggard said.

"These town-hall meetings are a way to inform the citizens regarding their safety concerns and to demonstrate how the police department is addressing those concerns."

When residents are involved in the safety of the community, "we have more eyes on the street (and) our citizens are proactive members of our safety community," Maggard said.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo