Stafford Police: Fewer Traffic Accidents in 2018

Chief Highlights Programs for Community Welfare
By Victoria Ford | Oct 22, 2019
Courtesy of: Stafford Township Police Department Stafford Police Chief Thomas Dellane

Stafford — Stafford Police Chief Thomas Dellane presented the department’s annual report at the Oct. 15 meeting of the mayor and council. Annual reporting since 2017 provides an overview of how tax dollars are spent, community initiatives, crime statistics and more. The public can view the document at staffordpolice.org.

Dellane reminded the governing body and the public that the police is the only municipal department that operates every day of the year around the clock, which is why it consumes more municipal budget resources than any other.

In 2018, the department answered about 30,000 calls for service – down from 32,000 in 2017. Of 12,649 traffic stops, officers issued 3,993 summonses. The department’s aggressive stance on traffic enforcement decreases motor vehicle accidents and fatalities, Dellane said. In the last four years, accidents have trended downward, which is especially noteworthy given the profusion of ongoing and new construction projects. Police responded to 1,037 motor vehicle accidents in 2018.

Other department highlights include its robust and above-and-beyond training programs, totaling 14,260 hours last year.

To be as active as it is, Dellane said, the department tries to anticipate pitfalls and areas of liability, to address them before they become a problem; to take proactive measures to improve delivery of services; and to attempt to mitigate any civil liability against the department and the township.

Dellane said the amount of time police spend on calls has increased by over four minutes per call in the last three years, which he attributes in part to increased state regulation (and associated paperwork) that emphasizes de-escalation, working through problems and prioritizing behavorial health – for example, using the Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment – and the attorney general’s office overdose mapping to identify trends within the opioid crisis. The new framework is more time-consuming but worthwhile, he said.

“The focus in law enforcement has changed dramatically in the last 10 years,” he said.

The Stafford Police Department is proud of its numerous community initiatives that put the residents’ welfare first, namely:

OnPOINT, which brings a licensed clinical social worker from Ocean Mental Health Services into the department two days a week. The OnPOINT program is designed to address the town’s unmet needs in the areas of social services, mental health and substance abuse. Stafford was the first in the state in 2016 to integrate OnPOINT, which has since expanded into Little Egg Harbor Township.

“It’s one of the best things I’ve seen,” Dellane said. The initiative has saved lives, improved quality of life for individuals and their families, and reduced the need for police services, he pointed out. Certain individuals who used to drain police hours and resources are now being handled differently, freeing up officers to tend to other matters.

The Internet Safe Exchange program was established for people to meet up to buy and sell goods at a designated spot in the municipal parking lot.

Blue HART (Heroin Addiction Response Team), in conjunction with the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, allows offenders to turn themselves in and submit to treatment to avoid drug charges or jail.

The Youth Police Academy is a popular summer program that simulates real police academy training for youngsters with an interest in law enforcement.

The Medicine Drop Box, located in the lobby of town hall, is available for the safe disposal of unused, expired or unneeded medications to keep them out of the wrong hands.

The Special Needs Registry allows residents to sign up to alert police to household members with special needs such as a wheelchair, a child with autism or a veteran with post-traumatic stress.

Stafford Cares is a brand new program the department is about to roll out in a month or two, for older residents with mobility issues. Those on the list would be given a lock box for the front door, so in the event police are called to the house, they can get in without forcing entry.

–Victoria Ford

victoria@thesandpaper.net

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