2011 SHARON POLICE DEPARTMENT ANNUAL REPORT
Joseph S. Bernstein, Chief of Police
2011 marked the 10 year anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York and also fittingly the death of Osama Bin Laden, who purportedly orchestrated this most heinous act which killed 3,000 innocent people. However, the threat to the safety and security of our nation, or our community has not been eliminated by the death of one person. The ideas of hate and decimation of our society lives on in others, and we must be forever vigilant in our efforts to maintain the safety of all. We continue to monitor events and changing times to evaluate their impact on policing as a whole, while focusing on those more specific to Sharon. We are all aware of various actions throughout the world that are indicative of the turmoil and violence impacting our individual daily routines and policing. We can pick up any newspaper or view any news show to hear all about the most recent occurrence of a horrific event. To many times we become callous to such events, perhaps due to being constantly inundated with them on a daily basis or possibly as a defense mechanism, or both. As time passes many people become complacent about safety and security, but we should not. We should continue to live our lives and not let these events change our daily activities; however, all of us must be attentive, reporting suspicious activities and behavior, thereby enabling the law enforcement community and other public safety personnel to better serve you. There is no text book with a step by step plan to make us perfectly safe. The personnel of the Sharon Police Department will continue to do their utmost to provide for your safety and well being working with other local, Federal and State agencies, and most importantly the general public who have more eyes and ears than all policing agencies combined. Only through collaborative efforts of all working together can we achieve the safest environment realistically possible.
The Sharon Police Department completed its first year under a new command structure initiated in October 2010. This initiative was taken on to better serve the community and personnel of the Department. Our goal was to provide better command/control oversight, have a positive impact on first-line supervisors by reducing the number of times they must be ordered to work beyond their normal hours, and accomplish this without any increased costs. We were able to achieve this, and realized some cost savings as a result of these changes.
Although the economics of the time are not conducive to expanding the force, and maintaining our current compliment is challenging in and of itself, the need for more personnel is imperative. We desire to continue to provide a high level of innovative, proactive and responsive services to the community; however, with the recent developments throughout the Town and anticipated projects, we must address our personnel needs to continue services at current levels. Since 2008 with the cooperation of the School Committee and Board of Selectmen, a School Resource Officer (SRO) position was established and funded. The benefits of the SRO in the schools have exceeded our expectations with requests by some citizens for a second, specifically for the Middle School. We had anticipated employing four additional police officers in 2009 in preparation of the Sharon Commons Development as it takes approximately one year to hire and train each police officer; however, due to the economic climate both the development and hiring was put off. Recently we learned that the project will be moving forward starting in the spring of 2012 and are monitoring this closely to ensure we will prepared for its opening. Policing continues to become more complex, requiring more expertise from your law enforcement community, but at the same time we must continue our traditional efforts such as: traffic enforcement, routine patrols, responding to various emergencies and maintaining a rapport with our citizens to foster trust and maintain lines of communication. We continue to evaluate programs and initiatives; making adjustments as needed, to best serve our community, ensuring that front line traditional policing initiatives of answering emergencies are not compromised. We hope that our funding levels allow us to continue the development of the Police Department and services to the community that we all expect and deserve.
Some programs we continue to offer on a limited basis are more critical for the times, such as “R.A.D.” (Rape Aggression Defense), a newly enhanced “Project Lifesaver”, which helps locate wandering Alzheimer patients or others with medical conditions, the “Are You O.K. Program” to check on the elderly, “A Child is Missing”, Junior Police Academy, and most recently, joining with numerous other agencies coordinated through the Norfolk Sheriff’s office, a Rapid Alert Notification System enabling us in case of emergency to notify by telephone large numbers of people in a short period of time. We utilized this notification system several times this past year to provide residents with important information. Our affiliation continues with the Metropolitan Law Enforcement Council (Metro-LEC), a contingent of approximately forty local law enforcement agencies and two Sheriffs’ Departments, formed to promote greater public safety and protection within local communities through the sharing of resources and promoting greater capacity which exceed the capabilities of any one single agency. Through this Law Enforcement Council many initiatives have been accomplished, well beyond the means of individual agencies, including the web site, Massachusetts Most Wanted (www.massmostwanted.org), which has been very helpful in identifying and solving numerous crimes, including those in our community. Metro-LEC also maintains a forensics computer lab which includes state of the art equipment and specially trained police officers from various member agencies which have assisted us with various investigations including sexual assaults, identity thefts and illegal drug activities.
In 2011, as in past years, we aggressively pursued outside funding to augment Town resources for equipment purchases and additional officers in the field. Due to the unfavorable economic times, most funding for local agencies like ours has almost been eliminated, with the limited available resources being directed to regional initiatives. Nevertheless, during this period, the Sharon Police Department was successful in receiving grant monies which assisted in: training personnel in the use of the enhanced 911 Emergency System, supplementing Town funds for E-911 Dispatchers’ personnel costs, purchasing ballistic vests, and traffic safety.
Communication with everyone in our community is something we continually foster. Initiatives in this area include many of the programs listed earlier as well as: local 1630 AM radio through Civil Defense; cable TV; officers visiting the elementary schools; participation in reading programs at the elementary schools; and, our ongoing participation with various other civic groups, all in an effort to provide high quality services and for our citizens to interact with officers in varied settings. In terms of services directed to our senior population, the previously noted “Are You Okay Program” which, in conjunction with the Sharon Council on Aging and Norfolk Sheriff’s Department, monitors at risk seniors on a daily basis and “Project Lifesaver” provided essential safety net functions. Please visit our web site through www.townofsharon.net to view additional information and pertinent links, including “Mass Most Wanted” noted earlier, Sex Offender Registry, Domestic Violence resources, Identity Theft resources and others, as well as the Police and Town General By-Laws. Most recently we have designated an officer as the point of contact for agencies assisting recent immigrants to our community thereby increasing understanding of the functions and mission of their local police which may differ considerably from experiences of their native countries. With great assistance from and thanks to those involved with the Sharon Pluralism Network, Stoughton/Sharon Literacy Volunteers, and many others; educational tools were developed to help officers understand non-verbal communications of various cultures. The original focus was on police being able to better understand differing clientele, but it has also been helpful for those new to our community in understanding the functions/actions of the police.
We continually strive to develop our organization in an effort to better serve our community. Staff development and training are key components. Personnel have attended numerous training sessions to keep current and expand their knowledge with the goal of delivering ever improving quality of service and protection of the community. A wide variety of courses and seminars were attended by various personnel in addition to all officers’ annual participation in a training program through the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Training Council covering legal issues, firearms qualification, first responder certification, defensive tactics and community policing, which included a training seminar on the above mentioned topic of non-verbal communication protocols of varying cultures.
The Police Department was involved in OVER 16,000 incidents in 2011. Many time socio-economic issues impact on the activities of the Police Department. In 2011 we have seen a significant increase in burglaries and larcenies (thefts). There were 50 reported house or business burglaries, considerably more then 29 of 2010 and the low of 15 in 2007. Fluctuations in this area have been the norm, as often one person or group usually does not commit just one burglary and disappear, but rather many. Our neighboring communities have seen similar increases and we are all working together to address. In fact, as a result of the work of Sharon detectives not only were numerous burglaries in Sharon solved, but by providing information to New Hampshire authorities, a Sharon resident and associate were arrested and charged with numerous crimes in the Granite State. We have arrested several other people in connection with burglaries in Sharon, but most often property is not recovered. Reported larcenies increased from 81 in 2010 to 86 in 2011. Many of these larcenies are from unlocked motor vehicles. Locking your vehicle certainly helps reduce your chances of being a victim. We continue to call upon all our neighbors to assist us by being aware and reporting suspicious activities. There were 19 identity thefts, more then the 14 reported in 2010 but less then reported in 2009. All should continue to monitor their various accounts and be cautious in providing information to others. We have various educational materials at the police station and on-line to help you in this area. Officers responded to 338 motor vehicle accidents, of which 253 required formal reporting and 39 involved personal injuries. The numbers of overall accidents, both reportable and non-reportable were up in comparison with 2010, but about the same as 2009. Fluctuations of the above due to weather are expected, however, last year the ice and snow started early and continued making for a long winter. Many times accidents can be avoided by drivers being more attentive, putting cell phones down, and following the rules of the road. Over the last few years I requested everyone’s assistance in monitoring their own driving habits, and advised that officers were going to be more vigilant in addressing this issue, which they have, and will continue. Officers strike a balance in levels of enforcement actions, issuing 2,138 written warnings and 330 civil violations. Your continued vigilance in monitoring your own driving habits is the most effective way in making our roads safer for all. Officers also issued 62 criminal complaints. We responded to 894 burglary alarms, of which almost all were false, weather related, malfunctions or operator error. Officers were called upon 82 times to assist citizens who locked themselves out of their vehicle and assisted in installing 59 children/infant car seats. There were 41 senseless acts of vandalism reported, a slight increase from 2010, but considerably less than prior years. In 2007 there were 84 incidents reported. Please remember that with your help we can continue to have a positive impact in deterring criminal activity and again stress the need for all of us to become involved and report suspicious activity to include, if possible, description of the people, vehicle, and especially the license plate number of the vehicle. The overall crime statistics for our community are very positive. They are reflective of the hard work and commitment of the men and women of the police department, and citizen vigilance, serving as extra eyes and ears for the police department.
As in past years, I will conclude by thanking all the people who have supported the Sharon Police Department. Many of you have spoken to me personally, and others sent notes of appreciation complimenting various members of the department. Your expressions of thanks are greatly appreciated. If you have any comments or suggestions, which you feel would be beneficial to us in better serving you, please let us know. You can telephone me at 781.784.1588, stop by the Police Station, or send us a note.