08/03/11 — Fremont Police Department gets new look

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Fremont Police Department gets new look

By Gary Popp
Published in News on August 3, 2011 1:46 PM

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Fremont's new police chief, Paul Edward Moats Jr., patrols Main Street in Fremont. Moats is a hands-on chief and is making an effort to have his face known in the community. Moats is focusing the department on dealing with crime in the town and moving away from a focus on traffic violations.

FREMONT -- The Fremont Police Department has received a much needed face-lift.

Among the recent changes is Paul Moats, who took over the reins as chief more than four months ago.

Moats' formidable physical stature is matched by his ambition to take a fresh approach to fighting the town's drug activity and home break-ins.

Since Moats stepped in as chief, the department has gone from two to four full-time officers, a vehicle has been added to the fleet and the police schedule has been changed to provide 24-hour coverage -- all changes that will increase police visibility in the community and, ideally, deter crime.

Citizens may also notice that the officers' uniforms have gone from gray to a more traditional navy blue.

Still in the learning curve as chief, Moats said there has been plenty to keep him busy.

"Fremont is a right active little town," he said. "The call volume here is much higher than what I saw in some of the other small communities in Wilson."

Part of Moats' plan to make the criminal activity less active is developing a working relationship with the public.

"I am dealing with, basically, building that gap between law enforcement and the community. That is the reason I am so aggressive when it comes to getting out and meeting the public," Moats said. "I believe the police department and the community should be one unit."

Moats has made it part of his daily routine to make stops at businesses throughout Fremont to talk with residents and listen to their concerns.

He added that community members need to be able to rely on the police and trust that the officers are going to be there when they call.

And part of building that trust includes a shift of the department's priorities.

Moats said the department will not be as traffic oriented as it was under his predecessor Chief Ron Rawlings, who previously worked with the state Highway Patrol.

"I am not out here trying to write the citizens a bunch of tickets," Moats said. "I want the safety and security to be the number one priority as far as the citizens are concerned, and that is what we are paid to do. We are here to protect and serve. That is my main goal."

Moats said he also wants create an environment where community members are looking out for each other.

His plans include helping to form strong community watch programs in Fremont.

Moats said he will encourage the public to host neighborhood meetings, and he will make himself available at the meetings to talk to residents about preventing and stopping crimes in specific areas.

Moats said a small-town atmosphere, such as in Fremont, can present unique challenges for law enforcement.

"With a small community, some of your criminal element knows where the cops are. They will see you and arrange their criminal activity around where you are at, and we see a lot of that here."

The change to 24-hour police coverage is one step Moats and town officials have taken to make police presence less predictable.

"We were having a lot of our crimes being committed after 2 and 3 a.m. because the criminals knew that the officers were getting off. Now we have taken that element away from the criminals," Moats said.

The new schedule also cuts down on the time an officer may work by him or herself, making it safer for officers to approach a group of suspects. It also will allow for one officer to continue providing coverage in town when a second officer must leave to take a suspect to be booked at the Wayne County Magistrates office and jail in downtown Goldsboro -- a process that can often take up to two hours, and one that in the past left Pikeville police or a passing county sheriff's deputy as the closest law enforcement officers.

Since Moats has been in Fremont, the department has averaged two to three arrests a week, he said.

"Now that we are fully staffed, I expect to see more arrests being made for violations and more trips to the magistrate's office," Moats said.

The department is filled out by Sgt. Teresa Quinn and officers William Boseman and Greg Bottoms and a staff of five part-time officers.

As the turbulence of settling in as chief appears to be subsiding, Moats said he is enjoying himself and ready to be recognized as fixture in the close-knit community.

"It is a fun job, and I like the challenges," Moats said. "I expect to be here for quite a while."