2008-2009 Annual Report
July 1, 2008 marked the return of a seventeenth officer to the Montpelier Police Department. The full staffing was a great success, but it only lasted approximately six weeks, before another vacancy came up. During that period, the department saw a reduction in overtime, experienced greater flexibility with scheduling which enabled the department to put more officers on the street during peak times, enhanced its special investigations capability, and continued to provide a strong, visible presence downtown and in the neighborhoods.
Last year there was a spike in property crime that was largely driven by illegal drug activity. That trend continued this year as well, but there was a 40% drop in reported burglaries in 2008. The department also noted that assaults on police officers were down as well. Vandalism continued to decline for another year (159 reports for 2008, 188 for 2007, 215 for 2006, and 232 for 2005). General disturbance calls were significantly down as well from 355 calls for service in 2007 down to 251 calls in 2008. Having sufficient staffing levels in order to maintain a strong presence on the street and working closely with the members of the community were important factors in the improvement of quality of life and public safety in Montpelier. The police department continues to see an increase in more complex crimes such as embezzlement, fraud, Internet crime, and other financial crimes. Investigating these types of crimes as well as illegal drug distribution cases are time consuming, labor intensive, and in many cases require coordination with other law enforcement agencies. These investigations are conducted by patrol officers and shift supervisors and are not just the sole responsibility of the department's one detective.
2008 also marked a vigorous approach to proactive drug investigations which has resulted in the arrest of over 40 individuals for illegal drug offenses and the execution of numerous search warrants. The Vermont Drug Task Force has also played and critical role in our overall drug enforcement strategy in Montpelier and we look forward to even more participation with the VDTF in 2009. It is also important to note that the Montpelier Police Department executed several "high risk" warrant services this year due to the prevalence of firearms associated with many of these drug investigations.
Reducing domestic violence has always been a priority of the Montpelier Police Department and this year, the number of individuals arrested for domestic assault was the same as 2007. Arrests for violation of Abuse Prevention Orders were down from
2007. We will continue to work with our law enforcement and community partners in a joint effort to reduce the occurrence of domestic violence in our region.
Public intoxication is a serious problem in Montpelier and when individuals are incapacitated, or are a danger to themselves or others, we are required to take them into protective custody. Once in protective custody, we arrange for them to be screened by a properly trained mental health professional. Many of these individuals also require medical screening at the Central Vermont Medical Center before we transport them either to the Barre City Police Department holding facility or to the Northeast Community Correctional Facility in St. Johnsbury, VT. Due to recently passed legislation, effective July 2011, the Vermont Department of Corrections will no longer accept intoxicated individuals unless they are being lodged for a crime. Therefore, mental health, law enforcement, and health care providers are scrambling to find secure lodging alternatives for intoxicated individuals who have not committed a crime, but are a danger to themselves or others due to their state of intoxication. Mental health crisis intervention calls are another time consuming responsibility of the Montpelier Police Department. Like the public intoxication complaints, many of these calls require mental health screening while the officer or officers are present in order to provide safety for those involved in the emergency intervention. Due to the variety of disorders, often compounded by substance abuse, the nature of these calls can occasionally be quite dangerous for the officers. The department has focused considerable training time both for the officers and dispatchers on crisis intervention and assisting the mentally ill.
All of department's crime data reporting is submitted to the Vermont Crime Information Center (VCIC), which then submits the state data to the FBI. The reporting system used is called NIBRS (National Information Based Reporting System). This is a standardized reporting system that breaks down types of crime into A and B offenses. NIBRS data is available to the public by logging onto the following Web address: http://www.dps.state.vt.us/cjs/crime_07/. There is a six month delay in the update of NIBRS data.
Traffic safety is another major responsibility of the Montpelier Police Department. By the end of 2008, Montpelier Police will have investigated 175 of 353 reported accidents, which was a significantly lower number from last year. Of the 175 accidents investigated by MPD, only 15 of those involved injury which appears to be an all time low. Equally good news was the decrease in the number of accidents involving pedestrians. In 2006 there were 10 accidents involving pedestrians, 2 in 2007, and there were no accidents involving pedestrians in 2008. There were over 2,793 motor vehicle stops for traffic violations, and many of those stops were made by MPD bike officers. The department also made 60 arrests for DUI in 2008, slightly more than in 2007. It is the department's goal that Montpelier's roads and streets can be made safer through enforcement, education, and a close partnership with the Public Works Department.
Improved training has been another focus area for the department. With the alarming frequency of extreme acts of violence occurring around the country and here in Vermont, the department has taken critical steps to prepare staff as best as reasonably and fiscally possible to prevent and/or to react to such threats. Training with an emphasis on high risk-low frequency incidents has honed our ability to respond to dangerous crimes in progress. Improved specialized equipment and better tools for the officers play a key role in officer and community safety and enhance the department's overall level of preparedness. All Montpelier Police personnel have received training in the National Incident Command System, which is an all hazards/events management system.
The Montpelier Police Department Dispatch Center has undergone a host of significant changes in 2008. As of late May 2008, our dispatch center was decommissioned as a 911 PSAP (primary service answering point) and that responsibility was transferred over by the Vermont E911 Board to Vermont Department of Public Safety PSAP(s) which for our region is VSP Williston. There was also a substantial turnover of dispatch personnel in 2008 which presented many challenges as well as opportunities. In the end, the change in personnel resulted in an exceptionally strong and experienced team of emergency service professionals. The changes enabled the MPD Dispatch Center to improve emergency dispatch service delivery to Montpelier and to the other seventeen communities for which we provide contractual dispatching service. MPD dispatchers also receive advanced critical incident dispatch training, crisis intervention training, and other core training topics, such as NCIC (National Crime Information Center) operator certification, and CPR/first aid. MPD dispatchers are the critical link between the City's police, fire, and EMS resources, and the general public.
With the current national, state and local economic downturn, it is anticipated that the Montpelier Police Department will see more calls for service on a variety of levels. This challenge will be made even more difficult with one less police officer, a position that was recently eliminated from the police department's FY 2010 budget. As always, we will do our best to meet the public safety needs of Montpelier, and we will work together with our citizens to make sure we get through these hard times and maintain the health and security of the City of Montpelier.