Mental health and suicide awareness and prevention will be the subject of a town-hall forum that Dublin will hold this year in partnership with Syntero, the Washington Township Fire Department and the Dublin City Schools.

The forum is part of the Dublin Police Department's goal to address issues of significant community concern.

"We really lean on the community to help identify for us" areas of concern that are important to them, said Justin Paez, Dublin's police chief.

In previous years, the department had focused on addressing drug activity in the community and its effect on crime.

This year the department's leadership chose to broaden its focus to address additional issues of significant community concern, Paez said.

Whereas that still could include addressing drug activity, it also could include focusing on safety during such special events as the Dublin St. Patrick's Day Celebration Parade, human trafficking and mental-health awareness, Paez said.

The focus on issues important to the community is just one of four annual goals the department has for the year. The community-driven one was expanded this year, and the other three have been a focus for years, Paez said.

"Our goals are really designed to do everything we can possible and ensure all of our efforts contribute directly to supporting our mission of protection, service and public safety for the city of Dublin," he said.

For the past 10 years, for example, the department has focused on preparing for low-frequency, high-impact events, Paez said, such as homicides, aggravated assaults and aggravated robberies.

"Our job is to always be preparing as if those are imminent," he said.

The department holds training on critical incident response twice a year for all officers, Paez said.

In the fall, that training focuses on defensive tactics and firearms qualifications. In spring, it focuses on traffic stops and active-shooter incidents and responses to other threats.

When officers are involved in incidents considered to be high-impact, the department discusses what went well and what could be improved, he said.

Dublin's department includes 72 officers, Paez said. That number includes the chief, two lieutenants, six sergeants and nine corporals, he said.

Although the department places a focus on preparing for high-impact events that don't occur very often, it also focuses annually on one type of crime that occurs more frequently -- theft.

The top crime reported in Dublin is theft from a vehicle, Paez said.

Reducing theft offenses is a goal, he said. The department looks to prevent theft offenses by teaching people to secure belongings and deter thefts with enforcement efforts, he said.

Dublin public-affairs officer Lindsay Weisenauer said the city engages in educational efforts to prevent crime throughout the year by communicating ahead of such large events as the Memorial Tournament and by reminding residents of such services as house watches during vacations.

Police-related social-media posts are well received and garner a lot of attention, she said.

The department has made theft reduction an annual goal for the past 12 years, Paez said.

Whereas the number of offenses varies from year to year, the overall number of offenses is decreasing, he said.

In 2019, for example, the city had the lowest number of breaking-and-entering reports since the department started tracking that information in 2007, Paez said.

A little less than 60 breaking-and-entering reports were made in 2019.

The department has a crime analyst who gathers information from police reports to analyze where crimes are occurring and provide predictions for where crimes could occur, Paez said. Sergeants and corporals who run police shifts use that information to help guide how they deploy officers.

There is no number of crime incidents that is acceptable, Paez said.

"We take crime personally," he said.

The city also has tracked traffic safety for the past 12 years and made it an annual focus to improve traffic safety since that time, Paez said.

The department looks at statistics for traffic crashes, serious injury crashes, OVI-related crashes and OVI arrests, he said.

The department participates in a number of campaigns such as the Franklin County OVI Task Force, Paez said.

The department's traffic unit also coordinates with other law-enforcement jurisdictions, such as the Ohio State Highway Patrol, he said.

Major thoroughfares in the city, such as Interstate 270, U.S. Route 33, and state Route 161 with high traffic volumes often have higher numbers of vehicle crashes, Paez said.

The department deploys officers to specific areas where high volumes of crashes occur to focus on enforcement efforts that affect driver behavior, he said.

Education is also part of the department's efforts, Paez said. The department emphasizes distracted driving public education and teen driving awareness.

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@ThisWeekSarah