New three-year plan for Whitehall police focuses on engagement, outreach

KEVIN CORVO
kcorvo@thisweeknews.com
Whitehall police Chief Mike Crispen, pictured outside the police station, has introduced a new, three-year plan for his department that focuses on community engagement and outreach, more attention for older residents, better response to complaints, decreasing vehicle accidents and other goals.

The Whitehall Division of Police is building on its initial three-year strategic plan with a new three-year plan for 2020-23.

Whitehall police Chief Mike Crispen acknowledged that the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic will affect some aspects of the plan, particularly those that require capital funding, but the division is continuing to move the plan forward.

"The goals were created in line with the city's goals, and the objectives were created by the police leadership, including lieutenants, sergeants and (deputy) chiefs," he said. "The current plan is intended to elevate participation by the entire department in the overall strategy of making Whitehall safer and the agency more professional."

Crispen said the plan is fluid and subject to change, both because of the pandemic and evolving policing practices in response to nationwide racial and social concerns.

"We are working on ways to increase our opportunities for foot patrols to increase community engagement," Crispen said.

Goals included in the new three-year strategic plan include achieving a 75% participation of civilian staff at community events; the development of a mentorship program for civilian staff; and asking clerks and civilians to handle more work at the walk-up window at police headquarters to allow patrol officers more time outside the station.

Civilian staff members also will receive training to respond to instances of domestic violence, according to the plan.

Other goals include creating detailed monthly analytical reports to track theft offenses and determine trends.

"Retail theft is definitely an issue in the city, and (police) will partner with the city attorney in developing a program to address (it)," Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard said.

The plan calls for the development of a registry for older residents and a wellness-check program for those who sign up.

The program would work like a vacation check, when police, at the request of homeowners, check on houses while owners are away, Crispen said.

Public-outreach efforts included in the strategic plan include greater use of social media and polling residents to determine what residents would like to learn about police.

"We want to communicate with the community to ensure they are getting the best service possible," Crispen said. "This requires more than just officers being part of the program."

Another long-term goal is the development of a youth program in partnership with the city's parks and recreation project, Whitehall City Schools and various nonprofit organizations "to improve the lives of young citizens," according to the plan.

The city also seeks to reduce the number of traffic accidents by 15%, Maggard said, by increasing traffic citations for aggressive driving.

"(Another) goal that is near and dear to my heart is to ensure all neighborhood complaints are addressed," she said. "This will be accomplished through the creation of a complaint report-tracking system and a monthly audit to ensure complaints have been followed up."

The police department's strategic plan includes both programming and capital-improvement projects.

Those include the projected completion of a building expansion project to provide state-of-the-art telecommunications services, improved training and more room for personnel and evidence storage, Crispen said.

The cost of the renovation and expansion is about $3 million, Crispen said.

"However, that has all been put on hold" as a result of the economic fallout related to COVID-19, Crispen said.

The police and city administration will continue to discuss how to "adjust based upon national and local events," Crispen said.

The new strategic plan follows the division's first three-year strategic plan, which the city's 2019 annual report deems a success.

The three-year plan, completed at the end of 2019, included the Safer Whitehall initiative, which resulted in a 38% decrease in robberies and a 46% decrease in burglaries for 2017-19, compared to 2014-16, according to the report.

The plan called for aggressive enforcement toward theft offenses, the root problem of narcotic crimes and violence, resulting in the decrease in violent crimes during the three-year period ending in 2019, the report said.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo