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Cornelius News

Police beat: Tactical approach to crime pays off

Cornelius police officers per 1000 residents

By Dave Yochum. If it feels as if there are fewer police on the beat than there were five, 10 or 15 years ago, you’re right. The Cornelius Police Department is stretched thinner than it was back in 1998 when there were 2.68 officers per 1,000 residents. Now there are 1.83 officers for each.



“To give you an idea of how many that is, to hire back to 1998 levels it would take 25 new officers. We do not need that many but I’m just illustrating that 2.68 and 1.83 are way far apart,” said Chief Bence Hoyle.

It’s a big decline, and it may contribute to the ability of some drivers to make it down West Catawba at 45 miles an hour.

But the lower per capita ratio reflects increased efficiencies from technology and a generalized decrease in property crime, some of it due to video cams.

Officers per 1000 residents

Officers per 1000 residents

Improvements in technology—not to mention nearly six dozen strategically placed video cameras—reduce the need for feet on the street. New video cameras on poles near Jetton Park have apparently helped decrease property crime in The Peninsula since they were installed last year.

Between August and November, 2014 vs. 2013, property crimes in The Peninsula fell to five from 13.



“With that said I’m not claiming cameras are responsible—we just don’t know. I can just tell you those numbers have drastically changed since the cameras went up. It is way too early to say but certainly it has helped some. Also, crime is down all over—significantly so since the cameras went up around town—so perhaps that has helped. However, crime cycles and always has since crime rates have been reported. I suspect when national trends go back up so may we, but if we drop more than the national average and rise less we can say we are having an impact,” Hoyle said.

Policing in Cornelius means covering the waterfront. The town is taking over lake patrols from Mecklenburg County.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 2.45.42 PM“Once we take over the responsibility for Lake Patrol, we will need to add eight additional officers dedicated to this service. It will take time to hire and train this many people, but it will occur during the next year,” said Mayor Chuck Travis.

Lake Patrol will cost around $570,000. The county has agreed to provide $370,000; Cornelius pays the rest. The total police budget was $5.1 million this fiscal year.

Despite all the investment, Cornelius commissioners are saying there will not be a property tax increase this year, in part because ratables and tax income continue to increase.

“Upgraded technologies have created efficiencies with the police department that we haven’t had, we have a chief who is an expert in information technology, we have just approved a new software element that lessens the amount of paper work we will have to do,” said Mayor Pro Tem Woody Washam. “Things are just so much more efficient than back in 1998.”

The town will invest some $550,000 for new police software that will make sleuthing more efficient.

Mayor Travis said “we are at the correct number of officers according to our chief—he has requested an additional filing clerk as well as the resources to have an attorney on call for after-hours legal counsel. Both of these positions may be part time.”

Comparing Cornelius police staffing to other towns can be misleading.

“Comparative statistics with ratios is problematic. A town that has a lower population density like Huntersville will have a different need than an agency with high density like Cornelius and Charlotte. One that has a larger civilian function, like meter maids or code enforcement, that reduces workload of sworn officers, may have a lower ratio need than another. Finally, ratios are based on population—census numbers—and these are notoriously off,” the police chief said.

Nevertheless, at the higher ratio Hoyle said he would hire a specialized fraud investigator, computer forensic examiner, a larger traffic unit and full-time crime suppression units such as bike and foot patrols.

Has there been a concomitant decline in the crime rate in Cornelius with the increase in the number of video cams?

“There are no magic bullets to reduce crime and there have been studies that say cameras have marginal success. I do believe we are seeing an impact of cameras and I know we have solved cases that we otherwise would not have without the cameras, but it is too complex a topic to generalize like that. We have to look at cameras as tools, not solutions,” Hoyle said.