Editorial: A new home for community policing
● By Richard Gaw
At ceremonies before dignitaries, appointed and elected officials and residents, the new home for the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department (SCCRPD) received a formal dedication and opening. Tours were given. Well-wishers extended handshakes. Proclamations were distributed. Witnessing the events that ushered in the next phase of policing in southern Chester County called to mind the often tenuous journey it took to get this point -- when the layers of design and concept are erased and drawn again and finally transform into the finality of brick, mortar and glass that we see along Route 41 today.
From the moment SCCRPD Police Chief Gerald Simpson launched the prospect of establishing a regional police department in southern Chester County in January of 2014, his idea was met mostly with cursory interest by several other police departments, who were invited to climb on board to a concept that had already been proven to work in other Pennsylvania municipalities.
Along the way, the pathway to establish a regional police department was also met by legions of naysayers.
At a town hall meeting before the London Grove Township Supervisors and township residents, the proposal to include the township in its police coverage area was sabotaged by the efforts of a few in the audience who were deeply entrenched with the State Police in Avondale. They told the supervisors that there was no need for a regional police department in southern Chester County. They said that it would be a burden on local taxpayers. They said that the township was already receiving adequate police coverage. The proposal was defeated.
Other municipalities soon followed, but Simpson and his department kept persisting, with presentations at township meetings, in consultation with local leaders, and in private conversations with anyone who had questions. The leaders of the West Grove Borough, however, listened intently to what Simpson as saying – that we are stronger together than we are apart.
On Jan. 1, 2017, the SCCRPD officially began with a department that merged the New Garden Township Police Department and the West Grove Borough Police Department together.
Let the statistics speak for themselves. In the SCCRPD 2018 annual report, the communities served by the regional police experienced a 10-percent reduction in severe crimes, including a 36 percent reduction in burglaries. In addition, the report stated that traffic citations and the subsequent punitive enforcement actions have increased 39 percent over the past year in the SCCRPD’s coverage area, and that DUI arrests rose 66 percent last year, when compared to 2017 numbers.
They began partnerships with the Kennett Consolidated School District, the Crime Victims Center of Chester County and the Domestic Violence Center of Chester County, among others. They began to create a groundswell of new initiatives, increased police coverage areas and a commitment to the truest ideals of community policing.
On April 23, the SCCRPD Public Safety Commissioners and the Avondale Borough Council agreed to an 18-month contract with the department to provide 24/7 coverage to the borough's 1,400 residents, that began on July 1.
From the time Irvin Lieberman first began championing the concept of regional policing in Chester County in this newspaper several years ago, the Chester County Press has remained an advocate not only of the concept, but in its realization and continuing mission, as well.
As the keys to the doors of its new facility open, we wish Chief Simpson, Deputy Chief Michael King, Lieutenant Joseph Greenwalt, and the entire department and staff of the SCCRPD well in their new facility, and that it will be able to fulfill Chief Simpson’s wish that it become “the peoples’ home” for the many communities they serve.