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Police Department

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Residents may not have been aware of major changes in the City of Greer Police Department during 2011, but they would be hard-pressed to argue with the results those changes produced.

At at planning retreat early in the year, Police Chief Dan Reynolds laid the groundwork for the creation of a directed patrol unit that would work in tandem with other GPD units to conduct criminal enforcement within crime density areas.

An increase in the complexity of calls for service with fewer personnel to handle the requests led to the new unit, made possible by abolishing the traffic unit and moving those responsibilities to patrol. The change allows a sergeant and two officers to operate as the directed patrol unit within crime density areas to break up criminal activity and improve quality of life for the citizens.

“We will be able to work smarter and focus on high-crime areas,” Reynolds said.

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   The Directed Patrol Unit has been a successful addition
to the GPD. From left are Officer John Ruple,
Sgt. Jeff Smith, and Officer James Compton.

The new unit, part of the department’s patrol division supervised by Lt. Cris Varner, proved very successful during its first six months, making 281 arrests (including 113 on drug charges). Sgt. Jeff Smith, who heads the unit, estimated that 85 percent of those charges were felonies. DPU also removed more than a dozen guns from the streets.

“We work very closely with other units, particularly with the Vice/Criminal Investigations Division and Community Outreach. There’s a cohesiveness within our department that I haven’t seen in the 18 years I’ve been here,” Sgt. Smith said.

A key component of the unit’s work is identifying those high-crime areas. That’s where tactical analysis provided by crime analyst Lisa Golden in CID has been integral. A switch to new software in February of 2011 allowed Golden to track trends in criminal activity and produce crime density maps showing “hotspots” in the city.

Those maps allow the department to increase proactive enforcement in targeted areas, identify environmental solutions such as improved lighting to increase visibility, and make residents in those areas aware through community meetings.

CID, under the direction of Lt. Eric Pressley, includes detectives, vice/narcotics work, and victim advocacy, in addition to crime analysis.  The vice/narcotics unit was active in 2011, making 146 arrests for such violations as possession of narcotics, soliciting or offering prostitution, and alcohol-related offenses.

The Operational Support Division under the supervision of Lt. Matt Hamby is responsible for the detention center, communications, animal control, property and evidence, and records/data entry.

Communications handled 24,149 dispatched calls for service in 2011, a 6.6% increase over 2010. Dispatchers experienced a 3.5% decrease in 911 emergency calls over the same period.

After experiencing a decline in arrested adults processed into the detention center the previous year, 2011 saw 2,369 adults processed – a 32% increase. Juveniles declined by 11.1% and inmates transferred to the Greenville and Spartanburg jails also declined by 12% and 11%, respectively.

Animal control officer Scott Ruttgers received 1,330 calls for service in 2011, collecting 281 animals and taking 243 to the humane society.

The administrative support division supervised by Lt. Jim Holcombe includes both the Community Outreach and Training Divisions.

Sgt. Chad Richardson works with members of the community to institute Neighborhood Watch programs, participates in National Night Out activities and neighborhood specific events, and hosts community meetings. He also manages a letter campaign to owners of properties where police have responded multiple times, reducing repeat calls for service and helping to protect the property owners’ investments.

Operation Medicine Cabinet is an effort to remove expired or unneeded prescription medicines from homes to keep them from being flushed or out of the hands of teenagers. Sgt. Richardson collected and incinerated 250 pounds of prescription drugs following two collection events in 2011.

Sgt. Randle Ballenger has made the City of Greer the training capital of the Upstate for law enforcement agencies, making it convenient and inexpensive for GPD members to attend training classes.

Between the police training room and the events halls at Greer City Hall, the department hosted 49 classes in 2011, training 1,234 students from South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia.

Like every City of Greer department, GPD actively seeks grants to supplement its operating budget, improve safety, and increase man hours. Capt. Jolene Vancil, who oversees grants as the head of professional standards for the department, said the department received nearly $148,000 in grant funds for salary and benefits for three officers, bulletproof vests, and “buy money” for underage drinking cases.

The department also has a memorandum of understanding with Greenville County Schools to provide for school resource officers.

The GPD Patrol Division promoted three of its own in 2011. Chris Forrester was promoted from corporal to sergeant, while Kara Blackwell and Brenda Veach were both promoted to the rank of corporal.

 sidne  
 The SIDNE kart is designed to give drivers the feel
of losing control due to distracted or impaired driving.
 

One of the department’s more successful community programs is the Citizens Police Academy, which gives city residents the opportunity to experience the day-to-day responsibilities of all GPD departments. The academy is offered twice annually.

GPD partnered with the Town of Lyman and the Town of Duncan, pooling forfeiture money to purchase a new teaching tool they hope will curb the number of teen drivers who have died as a result of drunken driving.

The Simulated Impaired DriviNg Experience (SIDNE) vehicle is a go-kart with controls that can simulate the effects of drugs and alcohol on a motorist’s driving skills. It is the only teaching tool of its kind in the state.

Once a driver is comfortable with the kart, a trainer sends a signal to the vehicle causing the driver to lose control of steering. In addition to being used in schools and Alive at 25 programs, the system will be made available to local organizations.


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