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Bluffton Police Chief David McAllister's goal has never been to reduce crime.
He wants to eliminate it.
A new program he plans to begin work on later this month will, he hopes, be the centerpiece of his administration and a catalyst to get him closer to that goal.
McAllister calls it the Neighborhood Services Division, and he'll need help from town residents and more than $200,000 in stimulus money to get the officers and equipment he'll need quickly.
The Neighborhood Services Division willhelp build neighborhood and block watches, give presentations on crime problems and protection, and establish free security screenings to make homes less attractive to thieves, McAllister said.
It's based on similar programs he created while as a police chief in Delaware. Those programs had great community input and support, he said.
"This is a completely community-oriented approach to policing," he said. "We want to cut crime by empowering citizens and giving them the information and skills to protect themselves, and we need those eyes and ears in the community."
He's had the idea and framework for the division since becoming police chief in 2006. But the department has been busy earning accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, which was awarded last month.
"That was the first major thing I wanted to accomplish," he said of CALEA. "Now that it's done, we'll use that as a base to grow the larger ideas."
McAllister said police will need a great deal of community input and participation and more officers to fill the division. The department currently has 32 sworn officers after losing four to budget cutbacks. Bluffton police have requested a grant from the federal stimulus package to rehire four officers and kickstart the division program.
The department would also use the stimulus money for a new radar display for traffic enforcement, a new shallow-hulled boat for river patrols to replace its currently damaged craft and computer mapping software..
Bluffton is expected to hear news of the stimulus grant applications in May or June, McAllister said. Major planning can begin shortly after that, he said. He hopes to create a neighborhood watch program in the Simmonsville and Buck Island road areas as a starting point for the division and as a model for future programs.
Both neighborhoods have a history of community policing and are a perfect place to begin, McAllister added.
Kevin Cleveland, a Buck Island Road resident, is excited about the proposal and wants more police involvement in his neighborhood.
"We need the police out here getting to know these residents and getting to know what our problems are," he said. "That's the only way to clean up this area."
As police work to build those relationships with neighborhoods, they're working with federal agencies to fill in gaps on equipment and training in the short term.
For example, Bluffton police will partner with the Drug Enforcement Agency later this month to strengthen drug investigations, McAllister said. Bluffton will use some of the DEA's equipment, training and resources while drug agents get better intelligence on the area through new open channels of communication with local police, McAllister said.
"We're a small department and we're always looking for ways to improve with what we have," McAllister said. "I think these changes we're making will propel us to make a big improvement in crime in Bluffton."