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Drugs continue to be the motivating factor in the increase of property and violent crimes in the city, Galax Police Chief Rick Clark told Galax City Council on Feb. 13.
During 2011, the Galax Police Department recorded 1,375 crimes, compared to 1,242 in 2010 — a 10.7 percent increase.
“Many are using burglary to feed their drug habit,” said Clark.
The police department recorded 18,951 calls for service last year — an 18.7 percent increase from 15,965 in 2010.
Over the past couple of years, the city has experienced an increase in robbery, aggravated assault, simple assault, shoplifting, larceny, forgery, credit card fraud, embezzlement, vandalism and drug offenses.
In 2010, 775 arrests were made, compared to 712 arrests in 2011.
The department recorded 70 drug arrests last year. The Twin County Drug Task Force investigated 119 drug offenses committed by 80 offenders.
Of these drug offenses, 61 offenders were prosecuted in Grayson and Carroll circuit courts; and 19 were prosecuted in federal court.
Galax police officers were involved in the investigation of 189 drug offenses and arrests of 150 individuals in 2010.
“Traffic enforcement will always be controversial,” said Clark. “However, high visibility and aggressive traffic enforcement is both a safety tool and a crime deterrent.”
In 2011, the department participated in four mandatory traffic enforcement programs in May, July, November and December, which are funded by a Virginia Highway Safety grant.
Last year, the police department issued 2,195 traffic summonses and investigated 124 automobile accidents. The year before, the department issued 2,208 traffic summons and investigated 192 reportable accidents.
“The department has actually issued more summonses for suspended and unlicensed drivers in the past two years than speeding violations,” said Clark.
In 2011, the police department hosted a statewide training for the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the Crossroads Institute. Also, the department hosted a second training at the facility, in which two Galax police officers coordinated the training, along with staff from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services.
Members of the Galax Police Department provide instruction in the regional law enforcement academy in both basic and in-service training.
Clark noted that the police department is seeking re-certification as a Crime Prevention Community — one of only 13 agencies in Virginia with that designation.
“As chief of police, I am extremely proud of this designation,” said Clark. “Galax is by far the smallest of the localities currently designated and the only locality that does not have a designated person whose sole duties are to maintain the program.”
Among other accomplishments in 2011, the police department-sponsored National Night Out event placed eighth in the U.S. in the “10,000 and under” population category.
As part of the Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS) grant, a $140,000 award from the U.S. Department of Justice, the department hired Silverio Gonzales. The grant funds an entry-level position and includes officer training.
The city requested the grant to hire someone who is able to communicate with the Hispanic population in Galax. Gonzales will be able to open up lines of communication with the Hispanic areas, said Clark.
Gonzales began basic recruit training on Jan. 23 and will graduate in June.
Galax Police Department houses the Twin County E911, a regional dispatch and emergency call answering point for the area. The dispatchers answer calls for three police departments, two sheriff’s offices, 10 fire departments and 14 EMS providers.
The dispatch center is staffed with three communications officers 24 hours a day. In 2011, the communications staff dispatched 37,067 calls for service, compared to 43,236 in 2010.
In November 2011, the police department and Galax Department of Social Services was approached by the Department of Juvenile Justice and encouraged to partner in a youth prevention, re-entry and diversion program. A couple of months ago, the project was one of four projects across Virginia unanimously approved by the Department of Criminal Justice Services. The project was awarded $250,000 over a two year period.
The program, designed to help troubled youth and provide them with positive alternatives, will be implemented as a pilot program in Galax in the next 12 months. The grant will fund training for parents, educators, mentors and the police; youth activities; apprenticeships; and early intervention.
In 2011, the department accepted an armored vehicle that was funded by a grant from the Department of Criminal Justice Services. The vehicle was deployed to Grundy and Blacksburg in response to violent police-citizen encounters, and to Blacksburg for standby during a protest. Members of the emergency response team train with the vehicle monthly and have used it in search warrant executions.
The police department represents Virginia law enforcement on the Executive Board of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, Virginia Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission, Department of Criminal Justice Services Board and the Virginia Attorney General's TRIAD Council.
“As Chief of the Galax Police Department, I want to express my appreciation to each member of the police department for the services they provide on a daily basis,” said Clark. “I realize that nothing is accomplished without their efforts.”
• Capt. James Cox was elected chairperson of the Virginia Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission and was awarded a scholarship by the Virginia Police Chiefs Foundation. He attended and completed Police Executive Leadership School at the University of Richmond.
• Sgt. Chris Brown recently completed his 25th year of service at the Galax Police Department. Brown has organized the National Night Out event since its inception. He represents Virginia Law Enforcement on the Virginia Attorney General’s TRIAD Council.
• Sgt. Danita Jackson is a shift leader and is certified as a rape aggression anti-violence instructor, which is offered in the high school and Galax Recreation Center.
• Sgt. Jody Poole is a shift leader and certified criminal justice instructor. He was chosen to attend “train-the-trainer” school this past year. Poole is one of about 50 police officers in Virginia certified to instruct police response to active shooters in urban and rural settings.
• Sgt. Shawny Jones is a shift leader who will become a certified criminal justice instructor this year. He led the department in traffic enforcement and criminal arrests.
• Sgt. Mark Burnett is a shift leader. His shift led the department in clearance of criminal cases in the past year. He is the middle generation of three to work or have worked for the Galax Police Department. His father was a police lieutenant and his son, Andrew, is also an officer.
• Officer Vickie Taylor is the school resource officer in Galax City Schools. She is certified as a Gang Resistance Education and Training instructor by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. Taylor will complete course work this summer and receive a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
• Officer Darrin Alley provides court security and led the department in warrant service in the past year. He is also is in charge of ordinance enforcement and brought 51 abandoned vehicles into compliance in 2011.
• Detectives Robbie Isom and J.B. Greer were involved in the detection, identification and prosecution of 80 persons accused of narcotics distribution in the Twin Counties. In December 2011, they were invited by the University of Chicago to participate in a symposium in Maryland that is studying methamphetamine distribution on the east coast. They were chosen because of their expertise and knowledge of drug distribution in Virginia.
• Detective Aaron Criner is a certified criminal justice instructor and adjunct evaluator for the Virginia Academy of Forensic Science in Richmond. In the past year, he was instrumental in formation of a major crimes evidence and crime scene search mutual aid agreement in Southwest Virginia.
• Officer John Reavis was assigned as a field training officer in the past year after completion of the Police Training Officer program at the Southern Police Institute in Louisville, Ky.
• Officer Drew Bobbitt joined the police department last year. He cleared the first burglary he was assigned.
• Officer Trevor Jefferson also joined the department in 2011. His first weekend on his own, he made felony drug arrest on two separate nights.
• Officer Jason Hawks is a state certified police firearms instructor. In the past year, he distinguished himself in criminal investigations.
• Officer Andrew Burnett and Officer Hawks investigated a series of burglaries. Working in partnership while on different shifts, they were able to identify suspects, which resulted in clearing the cases. Burnett led the department in on-view arrest in 2011.
• Officer Kevin Hall led the investigation of a church burglary. His attention to detail led to the discovery of latent fingerprints that were identified by the Bureau of Forensic Science and resulted in an arrest and clearance.
• Officer Chris Hines is a certified police instructor and has completed the Police Officers Training at the Southern Police Institute to become a field training officer. He also coordinates the D.A.R.E. program in Galax City Schools.
• Officer Adam Newman became a member of the tactical response team in the past year. Last year, he completed Basic Tactical Officers Training and Response to Active Shooter Training in Rural Environments.
• Officer Bill Shaffner is a certified police driver instructor and is the head instructor for driver training in the police and jail officers’ basic training course.
• Officer Jacob Vaughan is a certified police firearms instructor. Vaughan is fully certified by the Virginia Police Work Dog Association to handle, Dunja, a fully trained patrol dog. They are both certified in tracking, patrol and narcotics detection.
• Officer Terry Woods led the department in traffic enforcement and on-view criminal arrests during 2011. He plans to begin a graduate degree in criminal justice.