Whitehall police chief hoping to capitalize on success of first strategic plan

Gary Seman Jr.
ThisWeek group
Whitehall Division of Police Chief Mike Crispen stands at police headquarters, 365 S. Yearling Road. Crispen recently described the division's second strategic initiative launched this year.

The Whitehall Division of Police is piggybacking on a strategic plan with initial results that impressed Chief Mike Crispen.

At the beginning of the year, the division began implementing its second Safer Whitehall Strategic Plan that includes – and affects – each department, including the patrol bureau, chief's office, detective bureau and crime analysis, and all 90 personnel, Crispen said.

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The police division plans to address several areas of concern through 2024. That will include, for example, developing a standardized cultural test about the police organization for each candidate at the final interview by the chief.

Crispen said previously, candidate questions were selected at random.

“It’s a specific culture-based interview, making sure you hire the right people,” he said. “And the ones who are here, making sure they provide excellence in policing service.”

The chief said the police division also will work specifically with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office on human-trafficking issues.

Crispen said human-trafficking arrests have been made outside of the Whitehall, but nothing major has been recorded in the city. He said Whitehall has not been able to dedicate resources to the issue in the past, but the attorney general would be able to provide more firepower on the matter.

"Human trafficking continues to be a core focus for police departments across the state because of the high-volume of general traffic through Ohio," Deputy Chief Dan Kelso said. "This, coupled with the fact that Whitehall has a large transient population, makes preventing human trafficking a priority.

"Even if there are not a high number of known incidents in the community, the division of police is focused on preventing human trafficking from becoming an issue locally."

Another issue in the strategic plan involves the targeting of seniors for abuse and fraud.

Crispen said Deputy Chief Tracy Sharpless speaks at the Whitehall Senior Center once a month and even provide classes in such subjects as identity theft, but they weren’t as effective as police had hoped.

The new plan calls for a peer-based program in which the trainers are members of the Whitehall Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association. Crispen said seniors likely will better acknowledge the information coming from people in their own age group.

He said there is no timeline for implementation for the latest strategic plan as long as its completed by 2024. Some of the plan’s goals were spelled out last year but were postponed because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The previous strategic plan from 2017-20 for the Safer Whitehall Initiative also was specific in its goals. It led to a 27% drop in violent crime, a decrease in robberies by 38% and a 46% plunge in burglaries over the three-year period, according to information supplied by the police division.

Crispen said he would have settled for 10% across the board.

“There's no quick fix to combatting crime, which is why the multifaceted approach the division of police employs through the Safer Whitehall Initiative is so important to their success,” Mayor Kim Maggard said. “As mayor, I am both deeply grateful for their efforts and optimistic about what they will achieve next, especially as they focus on engaging the community in making Whitehall a safer place to live, work and play for everyone.”

Brian Hamler, superintendent of Whitehall City Schools, expressed general support of the strategic plan.

"Whitehall City Schools was not directly involved in the development of the Whitehall (Division of Police) strategic plan," Hamler said. "However, from my experience working with Chief Crispen and his leadership team, I am confident the plan is well thought-out, based on data and best practices. The safety of our citizens and visitors has always been at the forefront of our very fine police department's thinking."

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary