Staff photo by Allison Potter
Corporal J. Rich is officer of the year for the Wrightsville Beach Police Department.
The honoring of Corporal J. Rich as the officer of the year led the airing of items concerning the Wrightsville Beach Police Department at the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen meeting on Thursday, May 9. WBPD Chief Dan House said Rich, a WBPD officer since 2005, was promoted to the rank of corporal last September.
“He has served as a field training officer throughout his entire career so he has been instrumental in training the officers who are out in the field,” House said at Thursday’s meeting. “He has done an outstanding job for us and we would like to recognize him.”
The police department also welcomed a new officer at the board’s meeting with the swearing in of former United States Navy corpsman J. Salyer, a native of Topeka, Kan. who served two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Later in the board’s agenda, a new WBPD policy was unanimously adopted by the board that gives the department more authority in arresting those trespassing on private land within the town. On Tuesday, May 14, House said the policy allows residents to sign an agreement with the WBPD stating that an officer may question any suspicious persons on their property.
“Where before there was not a whole lot we could do without the homeowner coming out and saying they are trespassing, now it is a no brainer,” House said. “We can get them off the property, look up their name, and a lot of times after you start running that information they have criminal histories so … it can lead to so much more.”
A similar system was employed at one of House’s former agencies, the Wilson Police Department, and he said when he heard residents’ complaints about trespassers he thought the concept could work in Wrightsville Beach as well.
“We are always looking for … different ideas and thinking outside the box about how other communities are handling similar situations and trying to apply those,” he said. “Based on feedback I have gotten from people I think it is going to be very successful but you never know until it is implemented.”
Soon the WBPD will have signs available for purchase similar to home security signs that will alert possible trespassers and roving officers that the resident has signed the agreement.
“It just makes it easier for the police officer to identify,” House said. “If you don’t have the sign they would have to call into the front desk to see if there is an agreement on file or not, whereas the sign gives them that hint that there is an agreement and they can go be a little nosier if they see a suspicious person.”
In signing the trespassing policy agreement, House also said it would prevent the perpetrator from suspecting that the resident called in the complaint if they are home.
“We have a lot of people who don’t want these people to know they are the ones that called the police so this is perfect,” he said.
Town manager Tim Owens also introduced another new ordinance that was approved at the board of aldermen’s Thursday meeting that would hold landlords accountable for repeat violations by their tenants. One of the biggest changes the ordinance altered in the town’s current nuisance ordinance is the inclusion of repeat pet ordinance violations in the category of offenses that could be taken to a landlord.
“We don’t want to have to use it but my first contact would be with the tenants; but if that doesn’t work, personal contact with the landowner generally clears up the situation,” Owens said. “In the event that it isn’t cleaned up, now there is a process to go through that holds them accountable and fines the landlords themselves.”