The new city budget has produced reductions of detectives and other changes in the Pekin Police Department. They come as the department continues community-based efforts to engage citizens in their neighborhoods’ issues and help those fighting drug addiction.
Chief John Dossey discussed those subjects in an interview with the Daily Times. Here is a summary of the issues and his comments.
“We’ve been told to tighten our belt” by City Manager Tony Carson.
The department’s detective force has shrunk from six to four with Carson’s decision not to fill two vacant officer positions. This summer, two detectives “will be moved out to the street” to maintain patrol levels, and the remainder will no longer be assigned solely to drug-related cases.
“It’s where we’re at as we try to adapt to a tighter budget. Truth be told, I don’t know yet” how that will impact drug investigations. “It puts us in a tougher situation. We’ll find a way.”
Beginning Monday, the department’s civilian parking enforcement and the city’s code enforcement duties will be combined into one new city position. Parking tickets issued had dropped 90 percent since the previous enforcement officer resigned in November and the position remained vacant as Carson prepared the city budget.
Overnight Desk Clerk
No civilian clerk will be assigned to the department’s headquarters front desk during the overnight shift beginning July 1. That should have minimal impact on the department’s response to people who come seeking help in those hours, Dossey said.
A telephone in the foyer outside the locked lobby doors connects visitors directly with a 911 dispatcher, who will notify an officer in the building if necessary.
“We haven’t cut the (clerk) position, we’re just moving it to second shift to reduce overtime” during those hours, Dossey said.
“One person showed up,” Dossey said, to discuss neighborhood concerns in the city’s lower-income areas on its south side Thursday evening when the department hosted its second Community and Police Problem Solving (CAPPS) meeting for its police Districts 1 and 2 at City Hall.
“I’ve learned (attendance) will fluctuate” from his experience with
the program elsewhere. “We’ll get the word out better” about the meetings.
The department launched its CAPPS program in March as part of its overall Neighborhood Impact Strategy to combine the modern tools of social media with old-fashioned interaction between officers and residents and business along their patrol beats. On the department’s Facebook page are separate pages for each of five patrol districts, on which the officers issue notices of interest and respond to citizens’ comments and complaints.
Dossey encouraged citizens to connect with the department through its social media offerings, including Facebook and Nixel, which provides texted alerts of traffic, weather and other concerns.
The CAPPS meetings, held quarterly through the year, are akin to more familiar Neighborhood Watch meetings of police and the public. Future meetings — all held at 5:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers — are:
• Districts 1 and 2 (generally, southern riverfront and southwest side) — Aug. 16, Nov. 1.
• District 3 (general southeast side) — June 21, Aug. 2, Nov. 7.
• Districts 4 and 5 (generally north of Broadway Street) — Aug. 8, Nov. 15.
Since September, “an incredible number” of 16 people have walked into police headquarters, turned in their illegal drugs or items used to take them and volunteered for in-house treatment and counseling to escape from their addictions, with the promise of no arrest, Dossey said.
The few other police departments in Illinois that also offer the Safe Passage Program get perhaps four takers a year, he said.
“From what I’ve heard, we’re showing some successes with those individuals” who are turned over to the Gateway Foundation, a Springfield-based in-house drug treatment facility, Dossey said.
Safe Passage is one facet of the department’s Heroin Initiative, which it launched last year to provide alternative approaches to the city’s drug problem beyond arrests and prosecution – and, when need is immediate, to save lives.
Officers have administered the powerful anti-opiate naloxone, also known as Narcan, to six people in the throes of possibly fatal overdoses of heroin and other drugs since they became equipped with the remedy as part of the Initiative, Dossey said.
Reports of stolen prescription drugs by people who, Dossey said, are likely selling them also have declined sharply. That’s come since the department has required under the Initiative for the supposed victims to provide details of their prescriptions through the doctors administering them, he said.
To show how average people can fall prey to drug addiction, “We’ll do an updated video series”of those victims who last fall told their stories on the department’s Facebook page.
Follow Michael Smothers at Twitter.com/msmotherspekin