03/24/04 — Police adjust shifts to patrol high-crime areas

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Police adjust shifts to patrol high-crime areas

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on March 24, 2004 2:14 PM

Goldsboro police officers are working longer hours on patrol so that high-crime areas can be patrolled more often, officials say.

Until last week, patrol officers worked 20 eight-hour shifts every four weeks.

Now they are working only 14 days during the same 28 days, but each shift is 11.5 hours.

To make sure the city is covered around the clock, four officers on each shift will report an hour early.

What the change will mean for city residents, Police Chief Tim Bell says, is a more visible police force that can concentrate on high-crime areas where there are numerous residential, vehicle and business break-ins and drug problems.

"To meet today's demands," the chief said, "law enforcement must change the way it does business. We're hoping this change will help us do that. We've been too reactive."

Another goal Bell has is to re-establish a special task force to work high-crime areas.

"The public should notice that we'll have more officers on the street," said Maj. Mike Hopper, the patrol commander. "ƒ It should help us in responding to calls."

Last year, police answered 48,249 calls, including 2,137 traffic collisions, and made 4,129 arrests.

The new tactics might not yield more arrests, Bell says, but what it might do is deter crime and move those criminals to others areas.

"When that happens, we'll go there, too," he said. "This is something we haven't been able to do, concentrate on a particular area, because of manpower."

With longer hours, the number of shifts was reduced from five to four, but the number of officers on each shift was raised from 13 to 17 or 18. The increased manpower "was a big selling point for me," Bell said.

Many other law-enforcement agencies, such as the Wayne County Sheriff's Office, have adopted 12-hour shifts. Bell says this concept "seems to be working well for them."

Bell says the change will give police officers more days off, more stability and a three-day weekend every other week.

"I think the officers will like it once they get used to it," he said. "They will have more days off and a set schedule."

The shifts will rotate every two weeks from days to nights. No officer will work more than three consecutive days.

The new schedule -- and increased pay -- also should help the department's retention and recruitment of officers.

Bell says fewer people have applied to work in Goldsboro because of the eight-hour shifts and many former officers have left for agencies that use the 12-hour shifts.

But now Goldsboro is hiring officers. These rookies, however, must work several weeks with their training officer before they go out on their own.

"Once we get them trained," the chief said, "our numbers per shift will be good. If and when we get full, we'll have 18 per shift, including a captain, a sergeant and a corporal. That's a good number."