By John Chambless
For the first time in its history, the New Garden Police Department will have its officers on duty 24 hours a day.
Police chief Gerald Simpson made the announcement last week as he revealed a pilot program that will begin on Oct. 1 and continue through Dec. 12. The program will be evaluated at that time to see if funding can be secured to make the 24-hour patrols permanent. Three new part-time officers will be used to supplement the current force for the hours of 2 to 6 a.m., at a cost of about $52,423, Simpson said. The new staff should be hired, trained and ready by late summer, he said.
Simpson, who has been at New Garden for two and a half years, has long been aware of the gap in police coverage. State Police officers had been filling in from 2 to 6 a.m., and the issue of reduced police coverage was raised again by several members of the public during a question-and-answer town hall meeting at the township building on May 23.
At that time, Simpson explained that the township has 11 full-time officers, eight of whom are on active patrol. He cited Kennett Square and Oxford as the only 24-hour police departments in the area at that time.
The population of the township has increased 55 percent in 20 years, Simpson said, now totaling about 12,000 residents. In 2012, the department got 6,100 calls for service, he said. "In 2013, we're on pace for 6,600," he said.
Saying that "Failure is not an option" in extending the program beyond the fall, Simpson pledged that money set aside for overtime should be spent on hiring the new officers. The police union is willing to begin the 24-hour program, he said, estimating that the cost of keeping the patrols going through 2014 is about $124,000.
"It's been a long time coming to get to that level of being accepted as a full-service department, but this is an important step in finally fulfilling our mission," Simpson said.