Citizens gather to chat with the chief

by Cole Dittmer
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

 At the quarterly Wrightsville Beach Police Department Chat with the Chief, Chief Dan House addressed the concerns of residents who attended the meeting and those watching at home on the town’s Livestream channel. Along with fielding questions from the audience at the meeting, Wrightsville Beach residents could email their questions in advance or call in a question during the chat by dialing the number visible in the video screen. 

House said he was concerned the video streaming feature would detract from the number of citizens who attended, but that he was happy with the turnout. 

“This has been the most crowded it has been in a while,” House said. “When I first did it you couldn’t find a seat in here because they had a lot of issues and we have fixed most of those.”

During his presentation at the beginning of the chat, House said the persistent issues are burglary and larceny. The number of burglaries for the months of October, November and December 2012 was up to 10 from four during the same months in 2011. Similarly, there were 26 cases of larceny in those months during 2012 as opposed to four in 2011. To combat these issues, House said the WBPD would continue to utilize the bait program and educate the public about securing homes and cars. There are many people that still leave their homes or cars unlocked on the beach, House said. 

With the push to enforce town beach ordinances in 2012, House said last quarter’s citations were up to 71 from 23 in the same quarter in 2011, but much lower than the 2012 quarter before that when the department wrote close to 900 citations. 

One statistic from the winter that House was surprised with was the 6,505 received and projected calls for service, which was similar to the 8,069 in the months of May through September. This statistic, House said, spoke to how Wrightsville Beach was transitioning into a year-round community. 

New initiatives House said he would push for in 2013 include an ordinance currently being drafted by town attorney John Wessell that would hold rental property owners accountable for repeat offenses by their tenants for citations like noise violations. The process of citing the landlord is still being developed, but House said it would likely be after multiple offenses and a written warning to the property owner. 

Another new program House said his department and Wessell are working on would address instances of trespassing when the property owners are not at home. The homeowner would sign up for the program and agree to let the WBPD act on their behalf to remove or arrest the trespasser. 

Many of the questions asked by those in the crowd and via email concerned noise violations, bicycle safety and the traffic at the Heide Trask Drawbridge. In discussing the traffic and bicycle safety, town resident Jim Smith asked House if there could be anything done to prevent cyclists from going to the front of the line when the drawbridge is raised. When this happens, Smith said the cars in front are only able to drive as fast as the bikes because the bikes have to ride in the same lane, thus delaying the clearing of traffic. 

Also related to the drawbridge traffic, resident Joy Miller inquired why the WBPD does not seek assistance from the North Carolina State Highway Patrol for traffic management on the western side of the drawbridge during heavy traffic. 

It is because of suggestions and feedback like this that House began Chat with the Chief. 

“First of all it gives us an opportunity to showcase what we are doing, what issues we are having,” he said. “… It gives them an opportunity to give us feedback and good suggestions.”

email cole@luminanews.com

 

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