The quarterly Chat with the Chief at Wrightsville Beach offered residents a chance to hear about recent developments and initiatives within the police department and air their questions regarding current law enforcement practices.
Chief Dan House began the Oct. 16 meeting with a presentation that outlined current crime trends in the community. Regarding Part One crimes, or more serious offenses, most had dropped compared with the same quarter last year, which included July through September. House pointed to vandalism as the main exception, which had risen from 13 to 29 reported cases. However, overall instances of serious crime had decreased from 109 to 100.
Part Two crimes were slightly higher than last year, but DWI arrests and liquor violations had both been more than cut in half from 2012.
“People are either getting the point or hiding it better,” House said of the drop in documented alcohol violations, which had been reduced by nearly half.
A Bait Bike program launched by the WBPD failed to net any attempted thefts, but House said he hoped the lack of results affirmed a lack of willingness on the part of would-be thieves.
Critical Incident Planning was discussed in the context of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. last year. He said a plan was in place for responding to such an emergency at the elementary school, but because of the sensitive nature of such a plan, it had only been released to school officials. House said his department has also created prevention and contingency plans for a Boston Marathon-type bombing at a Wrightsville Beach event.
A Q-and-A segment during the end of the meeting drew several emailed questions regarding spillover from the uptick in Wilmington gang activity. House responded that while gang members had been identified in downtown Wrightsville Beach, the closest officers had come to an arrest involving gang members had been a traffic stop downtown, in which an arrest was made for two unregistered firearms. Two gang members were identified in the stopped car, but an individual with no known gang affiliation or prior arrests had taken responsibility for possession of the weapons.
Wrightsville Beach resident Tim Taylor commended the chief for his department’s involvement at the elementary school, adding that officers were developing a “good rapport” with school children. Since the Newtown shooting, WBPD officers have maintained a presence at the school during dropoff and pickup hours, as well as performing walk-throughs at the school.
Resident Jean Van Velsor questioned the legality of bicyclists taking up entire lanes of traffic. Capt. P. Burdette, who said bikes are considered vehicles under state law, and their occupancy of the full lane is legally permissible.