Reidsville police took to the Reidsville Recreation Center on Feb. 21 for the latest Straight Talk community meeting.
“The reason why we have Straight Talk is it gives the community the opportunity to talk directly to the leadership of the Reidsville Police Department,” said Police Chief Robert Hassell. “Many times you may have concerns. You may have ideas as to how we can better serve you and your neighborhoods. This is the opportunity for you to talk one-on-one from each of my division commanders up to the chief.”
The Reidsville Police Department hosts Straight Talk community meetings on a quarterly basis. Each quarter, RPD moves the meeting to a different zone of the city.
The meeting was sparse, with less than five citizens in attendance – a steep drop from previous meetings. Nevertheless, the police chief and his administrative team took an hour and half to speak with the few present about their communities and address their questions and concerns.
In the wake of the Parkland, Florida, shooting, citizens have turned to local law enforcement to find out if they are doing enough to keep children safe.
According to Hassell, the Reidsville Police Department prepares its officers for handling active shooter situations.
“Since Columbine, I do believe there was a huge push,” Hassell said, referring to the 1999 school shooting in Columbine, Colorado. “We learned from how we responded to that a decade or two ago, so we catered our training to make sure we would respond the correct way to deal with the threat. Over those several years, we have trained, trained, trained, trained, trained so I think that has been pretty much drilled into our officers how to respond to a shooter situation.”
He added that Reidsville police would pursue further active shooter training and that officers are already educated in how to address bomb threats and other incidents that could happen at schools.
To provide protection in Reidsville schools, RPD employs school resource officers at Reidsville High School, Reidsville Middle School and the SCORE Center with one officer who rotates between South End and Moss Street elementary schools.
“We're fortunate to have four SROs in our city and I believe we do a good job in covering those schools,” Hassell said.
Community Crime Map
In response to a question about whether or not a particular neighborhood was safe, Hassell admitted that he prefers not to weigh in and let the numbers speak for themselves.
On RPD’s page on the City of Reidsville’s website, the department includes an explanation of and a link to the Community Crime Map.
This interactive, online program is used by many law enforcement agencies across the country to provide information on crime to the public.
Through this program, users can view a visual map of their community with flags signifying where crimes have occurred.
Users can view incidents over a specific time period up to one year.
The program highlights events such as homicides, attempted homicides, sexual assaults, robberies, thefts, frauds, arson and driving under the influence, among many others.
Each flag includes the date, time, location, crime and distance from the specified address.
Users can also request crime alerts when an incident happens in a particular area.
Both RPD and the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office input incidents into this database.
The department explains the free online resource in detail at www.ci.reidsville.nc.us/government/police_department/crime_mapping.php.
The Community Crime Map can be found at www.communitycrimemap.com.
Response time and addressing complaints
Hassell emphasized that when the department hears a complaint, they take action to research the issue. Citizens can follow up with the department and find out what RPD has done to address the issue.
To help address community concerns, Reidsvillians may notice more officers on the road.
“This is the first time I've ever said it publically, but we're looking to put more officers on patrol,” Hassell said.
This plan would place one additional officer on each shift.
He added that the average response time is currently five minutes.
“If you call and you have a ‘priority one’ type call, you should have an officer at your house within five minutes,” Hassell said.
For low priority calls, those times may be longer.
Getting information from RPD
A question at the February 2017 Straight Talk meeting at Reidsville Alliance Church inspired the Reidsville Police Department to expand how it disseminates information.
“One of the citizens in there said, ‘Well, chief, what do you do about how you get information out to the public?’” Hassell said.
They learned that pushing information out through social media, the newspaper and local television station does not reach all citizens of the city.
To reach those who they previously did not, RPD began to send messages through CodeRED, an emergency communication system that blasts messages by phone and email, to area pastors to be passed on to their congregations.
A citizen at the community meeting expressed concern over the effectiveness of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, an anti-drug program used in schools across the country. Some studies have suggested that the program is not very effective.
RPD currently runs D.A.R.E. out of both Moss Street and South End elementary schools.
“They say that, but I'm not sure how those studies were done and how they were measuring the effectiveness of the D.A.R.E. program,” Hassell said. “What I do know is that D.A.R.E. is a great program to build a strong relationship with our youth in our community.”
Hassell added that it is difficult to measure or quantify how many students were deterred from drugs due to the program.
Regardless, the program has helped RPD foster better relationships with the city’s youth, according to the chief.
“I think D.A.R.E. does have value in saying to our kids the dangers of drugs and ... I can tell you, from my opinion and from what I see in my life experience and my professional experience and in what these guys see, it does build a relationship of trust with these young kids in our community,” Hassell said.
RPD has taught D.A.R.E. in schools for 29 years and recently added a section on opioid and prescription drug abuse to the local curriculum in response to the opioid crisis.
Hassell added the cost of running the program primarily relates to buying certificates and gifts for students who complete the program, but he described the cost as minuscule with the benefits outweighing those costs.