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Safety first: Officials outline goals for 2019

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A vehicle turns left onto Elm Street on Tuesday at the intersection of Charles Boulevard, where new traffic delineators restrict some turns in an effort to reduce crashes.

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By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The new year will give the Greenville Police Department a chance to refocus on what Chief Mark Holtzman calls the “Three Cs” — crime, crashes and community policing.

Holtzman, along with Pitt County Sheriff’s Paula Dance and Greenville Fire-Rescue Chief Eric Griffin, answered questions recently about goals for 2019. When it comes to crime, Holtzman said Greenville’s focus for the year is reducing gun violence and the gang violence that is often associated with gun violence. 

One of the ways the department will tackle the issue is through technology, Holtzman said.

“We put a lot of effort into bringing on a new project called Shot Spotter,” he said. “That’s really the latest technology and we’ll join less than 100 cities in the country that have that technology that brings real live information.”

The city council approved a three-year, $615,000 contract with Shot Spotter in October. The system strategically places sensors to pick up the sound of gunfire, pinpoint the location of the shots via computer triangulation and alert officers via smartphones within 60 seconds.

And while Holtzman said the technology will be helpful, it is not a policing panacea. 

“Technology won’t get you the whole way there. You need good cops, you need skilled officers,” Holtzman said. 

Reducing gun violence comes down to how quickly officers can get to the call, how quickly they receive information and how quickly they respond, Holtzman said. 

But gun violence is only one problems that needs to be addressed, he said. Greenville leads the state in the number of vehicular crashes.

“Out of 85 cities that are measured, we are No. 1 for the last two years,” Holtzman said. “This past summer, we really pulled together a team with our engineers, with DOT, our traffic safety officers, and even partnering with Vidant to put together a traffic safety task force.”

The department also is working with engineers to install traffic delineators at five busy intersection in town. Two have been installed on Charles Boulevard so far.

The reflective, flexible poles are arranged in a way to prevent vehicles from entering turning lanes from certain directions. They limit left turns and through traffic at the intersections.

Holtzman also said red light cameras installed at five intersections in November 2017 will continue to play a role in traffic safety. 

“It’s really about education, engineering, and enforcement when you look at reducing crashes,” Holtzman said. 

It’s all part of community policing, he said.

“It’s not a program, it’s a philosophy,” Holtzman said. “Every officer can be doing something every day, and we do, to engage the community to let them know we are out there working for them. From an everyday officer perspective, I’ve asked them to get out of the car, take a walk through a neighborhood, take a walk through a business district, make positive contact with somebody,” Holtzman said.  

Other goals for Holtzman are to improve recruitment and retention of good officers.  

“We are looking at pay incentives, and other wellness programs for our officers and we have a deficit just like every police department in the country does and we are all trying to recruit top candidates from around the area.  We’re focusing heavily on recruiting and retention,” Holtzman said.

Pitt County Sheriff’s Office

Sheriff Paula Dance said she is focused on keeping her campaign promise of procuring body cameras for deputies.

“Looking forward, there were things I talked about on the campaign trail, and body cameras was one of the big initiatives I did have,” Dance said. “I’ve had some discussion already with the county manager. He knows that is a very big priority for me to bring our department up to the 21st century as well.

Dance added, “I think that’s something that is good for the citizens and good for the officers to have those and I’ve already begun working on how we are going to get those and what it is going to take to get them.”

Another initiative is implementing a program to help inmates struggling with addiction. 

“I’ve already got something set up in January where we will be going forward with getting those things in place and figuring out our operational plan and who from the community we will be involving to help implement that and get it off the ground.”

Dance also briefly addressed school safety and said the sheriff’s office needs additional deputies to accommodate the demand for services by Pitt County Schools. 

“I need to provide two other deputies. I have two more schools that I will need to fill positions that will go towards school safety.”

Overall, Dance said things are going well at the sheriff’s office.  

“I’m very pleased with where we are at and I think our deputies understand my position and my vision as it relates to the community because we are a part of this community; this is where we live, work and play. We want our community to be on board with us and we want to be on board with our community.”

Greenville Fire-Rescue

For the past three years, officials have been working on achieving international accreditation for the department, and Fire-Rescue Chief Eric Griffin said department officials plan to sit before the commission in March in California.

The accreditation body is the Center for Public Safety Excellence’s Commission on Fire Accreditation International.

Griffin said that receiving the credential is highly coveted as only 10 percent of fire departments have the credential nationwide.

As part of the credentialing process, agencies are evaluated in 10 categories including: governance and administration; assessment and planning; goals and objectives; financial resources; programs; physical resources; human resources; training and competency; essential resources; and external systems relationship.

“That’s a pretty huge project where we’ve been looking at all of our policies and procedures, making sure we are benchmarking yourself against cities really throughout the world,” Griffin said. 

“It sets you as an elite department and we had to look at all of our policies, all of our data, our equipment, our stations, making sure we compare that to national benchmarks and we were meeting those benchmarks.”

The fire department also did a self-assessment consisting of more than 243 objectives to make sure the it meets all the standards.

“It’s a huge deal and it’s probably one of the biggest things we’ve ever done.”

Other projects the department is working on include improving its internal policies that were reviewed last year by a firm hired by the city, improve recruitment and retention of firefighters and improve its insurance rating.

Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com or 252-329-9566.  Follow him on Twitter @TylerstocksGDR

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Crime and Rescue

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