Craig Police Department develops five-year plan

Safety, security emphasis of new law enforcement strategy

Safety of the community and of law enforcement officers are two objectives the Craig Police Department is trying to meet. There are several philosophies for achieving those goals, so the police department went to the community for input.

That input is now ready to be released. The Craig Police Department (CPD) has published its five-year strategic plan, which outlines the goals, values and objectives the department aims to accomplish between this year and 2005.

The need for change was recognized in 1994, when the police department began a movement now known as Community Orientated Policing and Problem Solving, a national trend many, if not most, police departments reacted to. The movement has evolved into the construction of the five-year plan.

The strategic plan was created with the help of a commission made up of representatives from the school system, the media, senior citizens, high school youths, local businesses, the Craig City Council, and the various departments within the Craig Police Department.

"The strategic plan is essentially the same as any organization would use to determine where are we going and what are we doing for the next five years," said Police Chief Walt Vanatta. "Community Policing is ... a philosophy, and within that philosophy you have different programs. For example, the School Resource Officer is a program and the business security surveys."

Within that philosophy is a variety of ideals, values and tenants the police department is moving to instill in itself and in the community. The philosophy in the newly finished booklet says in part: "As members of the Craig Police Department, we will practice a policing philosophy that promotes community, government and police partnerships, using proactive problem-solving and community involvement to address the causes of crime, fear of crime and other community issues."

"The philosophy is how we provide police service; and that is trying to improve the quality of life in Craig, and in that process recognizing we can't do all of that ourselves; the community needs to be involved," Vanatta said. "Now, what we are trying to do is look at an issue, and say 'what's the underlying problem and causes?' and cure those so that problem doesn't continue."

Before 1994, the CPD was primarily a reactive force, only responding to calls for service. Now, both proactive and co-active strategies are utilized in policing the community. Chief Vanatta used the example of the police working with the Landlord/Tenant Program. The department developed a partnership with the Landlord/Tenant Association, and provided training on environmental design issues, crime prevention, and background checks.

"When the program was first started, there were some apartment complexes where [the department] spent an inordinate amount of time going to. That apartment complex would throw the tenant out, and [the tenant] would just move to another one. What happens now is, [the complexes] communicate, we communicate, and our calls for service to apartment complexes have dramatically dropped. Once [someone] is labeled a bad tenant, the other [complexes] will now know it, and won't take him," explained Vanatta.

The strategic plan lays out five categories of challenges, and the goals to be met within those challenges, for each of the years covered in the plan. Those categories are Community Partnerships, Budget/Technology, Crime, Youth and Internal Operations.

But, there are significant costs in implementing some of the department's goals. The software and hardware for the new Custom Computer Software System (CCSS) costs $190,000. The bulk of this cost was covered by a grant given to both the CPD and the Moffat County Sheriff's Department. The grant was utilized by both departments because the CCSS is designed to create a single database for both officers and sheriffs deputies to operate with and in, making booking procedures, information and record searches and other routine data manipulations more efficient and effective. A bar code system for evidence is next; the most recent quote for the system was $8,700. Again, the CPD will be relying on grants for some of the money, and shall continue to do so for other projects for the remainder of the strategic plan.

"Part of the idea behind Community Policing is that, as a general rule, there is a lack of understanding between the public and [the police] on what we do and why we do it," Vanatta said.

This plan is in place to modernize, not only the technical and tactical aspects of the CPD, but also its place in, and interaction with, the community.

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