Proactive Police Force

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Galax Police Chief Rick Clark opened his annual crime report to city council last Monday by first noting that he was accused by a caller in The Gazette's Reader Hotline for being oblivious to some forms of crime that happen in Galax.

But instead of knocking the Galax Police Department, we should take the time to praise the officers for being proactive and for stepping into harm's way for their fellow citizens.

The department is not just watching crime happen. It is doing something about it.

For example, it has taken strides to limit gang activity in the area, as a few officers have been certified in gang recognition. And last year, the first major arrest was made as a payoff of those efforts, involving a 23-year-old recruiting teens to a street gang.

Without that training, officers may not have known what to look for.

To combat teens entering gangs, Galax School Resource Officer Vickie Taylor has even implemented a gang resistance program into schools, teaching students not only the dangers of gang activity, but also ethics and morals.

People from around the country and around the world are lured to this quiet, scenic area. Even the Mexican drug cartels choose the area because it's quiet and out of the spotlight.

But though cultural diversity poses a challenge, all officers completed training to better understand and assist the city's Hispanic population.

Galax's investigators are proving diligent and resourceful. Most recently, it was them — not police in Bedford or Roanoke and not the FBI — that apprehended suspect William Smitherman for robberies in all three localities.

Galax has the same problems as all cities — gang activity, drugs, violence, vandalism and burglaries. And as the economy gets worse, just as Clark said, so will crime.

However, it is the people that should be the eyes and ears for the police department. We can assist them to make Galax a better place.

The officers of the Galax Police Department, which made 2,494 misdemeanor and 157 felony arrests last year, help make the streets a little safer.

For that, they should be thanked.