By Anna Skinner
In addition to the typical petitions and proposals at the Oct. 10 city council meeting, the public received a special presentation.
Chief of Police Joel Rush presented on current crime statistics and gave a public-safety update, as well as introducing the most recently hired officers since last year.
During his presentation, Rush went over last year’s statistics and this year’s statistics to provide the public a look into what local police were up to. Out of eight crime categories, the most the WPD works with involves petty theft and car break-ins.
“We have seen an uptick in motor vehicle thefts, a lot of that has to do with construction sites, because gators and things we have to consider vehicles,” Rush said. “We have almost 40,000 people in this city, and last year was really low (in crime). So, to think we are going to stay that low is probably not going to happen. So, if we can keep it down as much as possible, we are doing pretty good. I feel pretty comfortable with traffic enforcement; I think we are right where we need to be.”
Foot and bike patrols and security patrols have increased by 79 percent and 104 percent respectively. Rush said lately, many neighbors have been requesting police to provide security checks on their homes while on vacation or increase patrols if there is crime in a local neighborhood.
“There has been an increase in population, so when you factor in those figures increasing about 1,000 people a year, the per capita incident of these crimes is falling greatly,’ Mayor Andy Cook said. “I don’t know how you’re going to get any better at it. The statistics he’s presenting are the result of the huge push that Joel and his officers put on prevention, and it is truly paying off. If you compare these statistics to our region or the state, it’s quite phenomenal, and I congratulate them on that.”
Rush commented on the national difficulty to be a police officer, but the community support from Westfield has been nothing short of amazing.
“It’s a hard time to be a police officer, but saying that, it’s not like that here,” Rush said. “The worse things are in the nation, the more support we have gotten, and it’s hitting our waistband a lot because every other day we are getting donuts and pizza. I joke, but for us to see this every day, the support is phenomenal. So, we are really blessed to live in a community like this.”
Last year, WPD lost four officers from its force – one to cancer, two to the private sector and one to the FBI. This year, the WPD replaced those four by hiring six more officers. Rush had the six new officers introduce themselves to the public in attendance.
“We are truly breathless to hire people like this. The most important thing I do as a chief is hire good people,” Rush said. “It’s nice to say we attract the brightest and the best people from all around the community, and we feel proud we are able to get the people of this quality. We hire good people with good character and teach them how to be a good police officer.”