Newly hired Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Dan House held his second "Chat with the Chief" on Thursday, Oct. 20. He reported progress during the first quarter of the town’s 2011 fiscal year, July through September, which was also his first quarter as chief.
Fewer residents attended this chat than the initial one. Besides Mayor David Cignotti, Alderman Bill Sisson and alderman candidate Lori Rosbrugh, approximately 20 citizens attended the Town Hall event, compared to 30 on Aug. 18. They also finished asking questions significantly sooner, except for a few latecomers.
Violations that affected the quality of life remained a hot topic. Responding to a question, House said approximately 50 percent of cases at Wrightsville Beach were solved, much better than the national average of 20 percent. However, he was working on strategies to hopefully prevent more crimes from happening in the first place.
House said the automatic license-plate recognition system would be a huge help for the community, mainly by deterring criminals from entering Wrightsville Beach. Another deterrent program the police were considering was a bait program, in which bikes and surfboards would be equipped with GPS trackers to try to catch thieves.
In addition, House aimed to get all patrol officers trained for bicycle work. He said bike patrols would be very effective for enforcing quality of life issues because they could sneak up on offenders and catch them in the act.
House also said that in the past, the marine patrol boat hadn’t been used very effectively. He was setting up a program with the Coast Guard Auxiliary to train two officers from each shift. That way, regular boat patrols could be scheduled and 24-hour coverage would be available when needed.
House told the residents that he had spoken with the University of North Carolina Wilmington police chief about a possible officer exchange program, since Wrightsville Beach is busiest in the summer and UNCW is busiest in the winter. That might take a while to arrange; meanwhile, UNCW was receptive to receiving reports of violations by students so that further disciplinary actions could be taken.
When a resident asked for a taxi stand at the corner of North Lumina Avenue and Salisbury Street, House agreed that the current stands were not very effective, and the locations were being evaluated. Meanwhile, he encouraged everyone to call 911 with any issues, not only for immediate response but also to generate reports so he could spot problem areas and trends. He asked anyone uncomfortable with calling 911 to call or email him.
Other questions concerned loose dogs and the consumption of beer on the beach strand as well as traffic violations. House reiterated his request to be informed about any problems, and he thanked everyone for their questions.