WILMINGTON — Last year, the Wilmington Police Department received fewer calls for service and reports of crime, arrested or charged about 1,300 people, and continued to see officers’ roles in the community change to include helping families and the elderly.
Wilmington Police Chief Duane Weyand said police had 16,742 calls for service in 2015 – from people being locked out of their cars to burglaries and assaults. That’s a decrease compared to both 2014 and 2013, but an increase over 2012, when the departments received about 1,000 fewer calls.
Reports of crime remained about the same, which Weyand attributed to the economy, the number of students in college, proactive police work and less bar-related calls for service.
“When you have a lot of people working, you have very little time,” Weyand wrote. “A lot of kids are in college, which is a plus. I would also attribute it to the volume of business checks and proactive patrol time helping to reduce the incidents of crime as well.”
Weyand also wrote that drinking and driving arrests have reduced the number of calls for service at local drinking establishments.
In responding to those calls for service, about six months ago police added a traffic safety unit, which has stopped more than 500 cars for various violations and issued a few hundred citations, according to Weyand.
“The complaints of traffic related issues have dropped off significantly for most areas except Denver Addition,” Weyand said. “We still have a lot of truck traffic in that area that cuts through.”
Weyand said the idea for the unit came from a community survey from 2011, in which citizens identified traffic safety as a way police could improve quality of life.
“We have spent a lot of time on Nelson, Truesdell, Randolph, Prairie, Florence and Xenia to name a few,” Weyand said. “The traffic officer also handles all crashes that occur and occasionally supplements the road patrol units when calls for service back up.”
While calls for service decreased slightly, the types of calls changed in nature somewhat. There were fewer reports of theft, menacing, assault and traffic accidents due to weather, police patrols, crime prevention efforts, court and social services efforts and other factors.
On the other hand, there were more calls to assist citizens, report suspected drug use and activity and welfare checks, where officers check on people to ensure they’re healthy or safe.
“There is no doubt the role of the police officer is changing considerably,” Weyand wrote. “Our welfare-related calls are up. We are seeing a lot of parents outlive their kids. We are seeing a lot of elderly being abused or exploited financially from their children, thus falling on our shoulders to deal with.
“Fortunately, we are partnered with Clinton County Adult Protective Services, and we have an investigative task force to aid in the endeavors,” Weyand wrote of elder abuse and fraud. “APS has some great people working there, and they are passionate about protecting the citizens of this community.”
Weyand said officers are finding themselves working to address homelessness, hunger, parenting issues, finding school supplies for kids and partnering with local businesses that give hats and gloves for the officers to hand to children in the winter.
“At the end of the day we find ourselves helping people make their families work,” Weyand said. “We have a lot of elderly grandparents who have found themselves as parents. With technology and the overall generational issues that exist today, we are in broken homes trying to mediate problems. Now, more than ever, we find ourselves as role models to kids.”
And, of course, drugs, especially heroin, plague communities across America.
“Heroin has torn families apart and certainly has left a generation parentless for one reason or another,” Weyand wrote. “These issues are always being faced by officers on a daily basis. Kids without parents face multiple issues to be a successful member of society. Odds are heroin has touched every member of society in some shape or form.”
Weyand said police have done their best to address the drug issue in Wilmington and will continue to do so, which is why it partners with the Greater Warren County Drug Task Force.
“You can’t investigate this problem locally,” Weyand said. “Our heroin problem is directly linked to the Dayton area. … It takes resources like technology, resources like people and the collaboration of other agencies.”
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter@NathanKraatz.