Craig police looking ahead

Community committee helping shape department’s five-year strategic plan

Story at a glance:

• Craig Police Department currently developing strategic plan.

• Plan outlines overall direction the police department should head in the next five years.

• Committee of 12 community members helping department shape plan to meet community needs.

• Committee recommending the department focus on four main areas — heath and safety, youth, crime and community outreach.

• Plan is close to being approved by committee and will soon go to department to develop objectives for accomplishing plan.

Reader poll

On which one priority do you believe local law enforcement agencies should focus their efforts in the coming years?

  • Reducing drug use 47%
  • Monitoring traffic 3%
  • Code enforcement 4%
  • Reducing crime 33%
  • Community outreach 12%

267 total votes.

Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta contends good policing is a partnership between a community and the police department.

Vanatta and the police department are currently developing a plan officers hope can maintain that partnership for the next five years.

The department’s strategic plan is a document developed through a community committee and the police department to ideally guide the department in its long-term goals to best serve the community, Vanatta said.

“A lot of times police have a concept of what we think needs to be done in the community that is different than what the community has for priorities,” he said.

The strategic planning committee started developing the department’s strategic plan in June. The committee consists of about 12 community members from the business community, media, health care industry, seniors and youth, Vanatta said.

“What we try to do is get representation from different groups in the community,” Vanatta said.

In pulling different groups from the community, Vanatta said the department can better understand what issues the community would like to see addressed.

“We may think burglary is a problem, but the neighborhood may think, ‘No, the junk houses at the end of the street are the problem because that is where transients live or rabid skunks go or whatever,’” he said.

During the plan’s development, the committee has examined the old plan to see how much of it the department accomplished, Sgt. John Forgay said.

The committee will also look at what changes have occurred in the community that could shape or change the next plan, Forgay said.

Forgay said in addition to various crime and traffic statistics, the committee has considered factors such as changes in the social, ethnic and environmental aspects of Craig.

The committee is close to making its final recommendations and has identified four major areas it would like police to focus on — heath and safety, youth, crime and community outreach, Forgay said.

Vanatta said one of the department’s goals for the strategic plan is to simplify the document.

The old plan was too big and became “unwieldy,” he said.

“It had so many categories that I think sometimes we were just trying to find things to do that would fall within a category to get them done instead of really analyzing that area to see what we could do that would have a better impact on improving the quality of life here,” he said.

The committee identified technology as a connecting element to surround the four categories. Forgay said he hopes improving the department’s technology can help achieve the plan’s goals.

“The more we talked about it, the more we realized that we have got to focus on technology along with everything we are looking at because it is changing so rapidly,” he said.

Vanatta agreed.

He said a growing number of crimes are related to the Internet.

Another suggestion made by the committee was to have the department conduct another community survey, as it has several times in the past, to get a better feel of how it could address the community’s needs, Vanatta said.

After the committee approves the plan, Forgay said the department will work to create subgroups and objectives to accomplish the four overall categories.

Those objectives can be changed from year-to-year to best meet the overall strategic plan, Vanatta said.

Forgay said input from the community is essential for the police department.

“We want input coming back especially from those outside of the department,” Forgay said. “The chief has always brought a concept here of community policing and with that it means we are not locked into what we see and what we believe are the things we have to do.”

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