Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes requests to increase staff by six

Published 12:10 am Monday, May 21, 2018

By Shavonne Walker

SALISBURY — In a presentation earlier this month to the city council, Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes told the board he needed to fill four patrol positions and two detectives.

In his presentation, the chief said he wasn’t sure just how to come up with an exact measure to determine how many officers are needed.

What he did provide was multiple data collection measures including the Springsted Assessment that was done prior to his arrival. All of the data collected during the Springsted Assessment is for 2013 and 2014. In that method, the comparison was between the averages and medians of 11 North Carolina cities to Salisbury.

The total reported offenses per officer is 48.64 in Salisbury in 2013 and violent crimes per officer is 3.23. The total reported offenses per officer in the comparison cities the offenses per officer is 34.82 and 1.25 per officer for violent crimes.

Stokes said this assessment just basically shows the need for detectives to handle violent crimes within the city.

He then looked at the response times from the 911 call center from the most recent years of 2016 and 2017. The response time includes when the call is received by a 911 dispatcher and is then answered by an officer.

In 2016, a priority one call (emergency) took 4.59 minutes and 4.50 in 2017. The time it took from the receipt of the call to the first officer arrived on the scene in 2016 was 4.56 minutes and 4.64 in 2017.

On average, the response time, from receipt of the 911 call to the first officer who arrived at the scene, for emergency calls, is 9.73 minutes in 2017, which is lower than 2016.

Stokes said staffing may account for the lower number.

“In 2016, we were really understaffed,” he said.

The thought is the department can improve its response time if there are more officers.

The department lost four positions to retirements and the community resource officer was moved to the detective division.

The Office of Justice Programs, which is a division of the Department of Justice, provided a preliminary crime data assessment on May 4 that showed a 20-year review of crime data from 1997 to 2016. The agency used a rate per 100,000 for comparative purposes to account for population differences.

The rate is a means to compare the crime to take the population differences out of the equation. A bigger city like Charlotte may have a certain number, but it can’t effectively be compared to Salisbury because of the population difference of a much larger city by using raw numbers.

According to the data, between 1997 and 2016, the city of Salisbury’s violent crime rate was on average 86 percent above the nation’s average for the violent crime rate.

There were budget cuts a couple of years ago, Stokes said, and the largest number of officers in the department only totaled about 88.

Since late 2016 the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office has partnered with the Salisbury Police Department to help curb crime at a time when the city had a shortage of just over a dozen personnel.

Other needs based on assessments:

• A need for increased training in place-based intervention strategies.

• Crime analytics capability doesn’t exist in either tools or personnel. The analytics are not capable of meeting the needs of the department.

The department doesn’t currently have the capability to collect crime analytics that can help identify where things are happening. The analytics could even show the people most likely to commit a particular crime.

• Detectives are overloaded.

“There is a burnout concern. They have a load they have to carry and that load is too much,” Stokes said.

He said according to the Office of Justice Programs detectives are working with far too many cases.

However, when there is a homicide, “it’s all hands on deck,” Stokes said.

• The need for increased training specific to investigative skills and gun violence.

• The need for increased capability in case, records and data management.

• The need for increased capabilities and training in best practices for major crime scene and preliminary investigation.

• The need for increased capability and training and managing investigations.

• The need for increased capability of managing calls for service.

Stokes said it will take about a two-year investment in training and outside assistance.