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Chester County Press

New regional police unit spells out the details of its future

11/15/2016 12:44PM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

Just moments after West Grove Borough Mayor Stephen Black and New Garden Township supervisors Steve Allaband and Randy Geouque were sworn in by Judge Matthew Seavey as the members of the Southern Chester County Regional Public Safety Commission on Nov. 9, the working blueprint for the future of policing in West Grove, Avondale, Landenberg and Toughkenamon got its first look.
With the help of a power point presentation and a big picture vision, the command staff for the newly-formed Southern Chester County Regional Police Department spelled out its budget, administration, operations, criminal investigations and community outreach for a unified force that will combine the police units in New Garden and West Grove Borough, beginning on Jan. 2, 2017.
Introducing the financial aspect for the department, Gerald Simpson – who will serve as chief of the new unit – said the total budget for the new department will be $2.358 million – an investment of $128,710 per officer, a lot lower than many departments invest in their officers, some of whom are over $200,000 per officer, Simpson said.
“As you begin to speak to communities, you can tell them that we are truly giving them a great service at a very reasonable price,” Simpson told the commission.
Simpson said that start-up costs will be $88,400, lower than the original 2015 estimate of $113,500, while the estimated revenue for the new department will come in at $2.174 million.  The start-up costs for the department, as well as its budget and estimated revenue, will be divided in an 80-20 percentage split based on population, with the bulk of expenses absorbed by New Garden Township.
The regional department will also benefit in its first year from a $10,000 grant offered by Chester County District Attorney Thomas Hogan. Of those funds, $3,400 will go toward the purchase of two police mountain bikes – as well as equipment – that will be used by officers.
“There are a number of things we can do with these bikes,” said Cpl. Joseph Greenwalt, who will head the unit's community policing efforts. “They are a conversation starter. Everywhere we go, whether it be parades and carnivals, the kids love them. They see a police officer on a bike, and they want to come up and see the flashing lights. They want to know if it has a siren. The answer to those questions is, 'Yes.' It gets across the philosophy of, 'We're out of the police car.' It also gives us the opportunity to be more mobile.”
Simpson, who served on the bicycle patrol for the City of Newark Police for three years, said that police bikes are a great 'tool' to allow police to be more accessible to the public they serve.
“This will allow us the opportunity to change the way we are doing our business, and it's a great utilization of the District Attorney's money, to help us present our department back to our community,” he said.
About $2,000 of the grant will be used to produce 'Challenge Coins,' which will be distributed to residents and community members for doing good works.
Deputy Chief Michael King will head up day-to-day operations and scheduling for the department, which will provide regional patrol to three areas of coverage, with at least two police vehicles patrolling each: north of Gap-Newport Pike into Toughkenamon and south of Gap-Newport Pike into Landenberg, which will be patrolled twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week; and throughout the West Grove Borough, which will be patrolled from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m., and quite possibly extending until 3:00 a.m.
“We're going to be a 24-7 organization, and this is where things in West Grove will change for the better,” King said. “There will be no shifts left without ample personnel on it, and it will be our role to make sure that there is constant coverage that can adapt as we need to change, to deal with issues that may arise.”
Detective Sgt. Keith Cowdright will head the department's criminal investigative unit, which will include performing follow-up investigations for crimes; partnering with other law enforcement and advocacy agencies; incorporating trend identification and problem solving methods; and sharing intelligence between both officers and agencies.
This will be an effort that will rely heavily on making investigations a shared collaboration, Cowdright said.
“We will work with all partners, whether it's on the county, state or federal level,” he said. “We have done investigations for all three, and staying on top of that will be very important. We will have access to a lot of networks. It really helps build a community-based organization.
“We will always be evaluating and adapting, as we continue to grow this organization.”
Greenwalt reeled off a lengthy list of community outreach initiatives, which include several projects intended to get the community know who is protecting them. A huge component of the plan is to connect to area youth, especially those who frequent the Garage Community & Youth Center in West Grove. He would like to have officers begin to hand out citations to youngsters for good behavior – such as helping the elderly, behaving properly, and wearing the right safety equipment – as well as police trading cards.
“One of the things we have talked about is putting solutions in front of the problem,” Greenwalt said. “Once you start that snowball effect, combined with great investigations, and once criminals begin to figure out that there is a jurisdiction that is beginning to put people behind bars for crimes, crimes pretty much stop. It's about a community knowing that we're out there on every level.”
King said that the enthusiasm for the start of this department has been “contagious” among his colleagues.
“Everybody wanted this to happen, and for the residents to know that their police officers from two different jurisdictions want to work together so badly should speak volumes to our commitment moving forward,” he said.
In other police news, Janet Allen was appointed as an administrative assistant for the department. She will begin her position on Nov. 28.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail [email protected]