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BLUFFTON -- The Bluffton Police Department has been trying to accommodate the town's quick growth -- and it's finding that some old practices no longer work.'
For example, Bluffton's parking ordinance says police can't issue tickets until the drivers return to their cars. Ten years ago, when the town was just one square mile, it might not have been difficult to track down violators. Nowadays, officers no longer have time to wait.'
Albeit a seemingly small problem, it's one of the issues new police Chief David McAllister plans to work with town leaders to change.'
Coming to the job after two years as a chief in Delaware, McAllister wants to put the town ahead of the growth curve, which would mean adding staff to the department of 30 personnel.'
Although still working on specifics, McAllister plans to ask for as many as 10 new officers as early as next fiscal year. The officers would be used to staff new units:'
<li> A traffic unit would focus on reducing wrecks and drunken driving by targeting hot spots for such incidents. Speed control also would be a component.'
<li> A marine patrol would put officers on the May River on the weekends. Two officers are being trained for the position, and a boat could be on the water by May 1.'
<li> A community services unit would organize neighborhood watches, educational programs in schools, police-sponsored youth recreational leagues or other such programs.'
The community services unit would build on one of McAllister's tenants that prevention is one of the foremost aspects of law enforcement.'
In part because of staffing issues, the department has had to focus on responding to crimes rather than finding ways to prevent them, he said. Whether that's working with students to prevent reckless driving or targeting points that are a hotbed for criminal activity, McAllister would like the police to be more visible in the community -- not just when a 911 call comes in.'
That includes re-establishing the old-town foot patrols started by interim Chief Alex Ferguson, a move that generated positive feedback from residents, said Mayor Hank Johnston. McAllister said he plans to expand them to include other neighborhoods.'
McAllister also wants the department to become certified by the national Coalition on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies -- the gold standard to measure a progressive department, he said.'
But like the accreditation, the changes will take time and training, he said.'
"This is still a relatively new department," McAllister said. "It's got history -- but it was maybe with four or five officers. We have a lot of work to do in a short period of time."