The Arkansas City Police Department experienced some growing pains in 2016.
During an Arkansas City Area Chamber of Commerce-led Noon Networking Luncheon on June 15, Police Chief Dan Ward shared 2016 crime statistics with those in attendance.
“Crime went up,” Ward said. “Our number-one problem in this community is methamphetamine.”
The numbers for 2016 were up from 2015. Part I crimes, which include robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft and arson, saw a 16.5-percent increase from the prior year.
This type of crime also includes murder and rape.
Violent crimes saw a 14-percent increase and property crimes increased 17 percent.
Part II crimes, which encompass all other crimes, increased 25 percent.
Arrest rates during this same time period also were up 25 percent.
Ward said that he still was waiting for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation to release statewide numbers to compare Ark City’s increase with similarly sized towns.
There are several factors that likely contributed to the 2016 increase in crime statistics.
One is the increase in the 911 call load for Arkansas City. In 2016, the call load for ACPD increased 57 percent.
The call load for ACPD was 42 percent higher than that of the Winfield Police Department and 28 percent higher than that of the Cowley County Sheriff’s Office.
Another factor in the increase could be the fact that 2016 marked the first time ACPD became fully staffed since Ward started with the department. They spent most of the year 25 percent down on manpower.
“We decided that we can’t move forward being this far understaffed,” Ward said.
In an effort to recruit more eligible candidates in shorter periods of time, the department now does quarterly testing. ACPD also increased the number of lieutenants who can run background checks.
“We’ve got a 10-percent increase in our starting pay,” Ward said. “That has made a huge difference in recruiting.”
When additional staff were hired, they first had to complete training with the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center and then spend 14 weeks of field training with seasoned ACPD officers.
“When we train people, we take the most productive officers and put them with (new recruits),” he said.
While the more productive officers are training, it can slow their productivity.
Some good news from Ward
In 2016, there also were some highlights for ACPD.
In addition to creating a new recruitment plan and starting 2017 off fully staffed, the department also received the AAA Traffic Safety Platinum Award for the first time.
Also for the first time since Ward’s hiring, all on-duty officers have their own bodyworn cameras and Tasers.
When he arrived in Ark City, that was not the case — shifts had to share.
The 20th anniversary of National Night Out was moved to Wilson Park, where there was record attendance.
“That worked out well,” Ward said.
Several police staff members were able to attend high-ranking training, including the Kansas Police Administrative Seminar, Central States Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar and Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy.