By Benjamin Cohn
Woodfin – Last month during the Woodfin monthly aldermen meeting Woodfin’s Chief of Police Michael Dykes told the board calls for service during some of the months in 2018 were up over the same months in 2017. The statistics say they were up about 40 percent.
Dykes spoke to the Tribune ahead of February’s monthly Board of Aldermen meeting regarding monthly crime statistics and how they stack up against previous years and why the calls were up.
“We are talking total calls for service,” Dykes began, as opposed to calls made directly to 911 operators. “That’s everything from a traffic stop to a stranded motorist to a motor vehicle crash to a contact [with the] public. [A call for service is] something where we were dispatched, or we got on the radio and said that we were doing this, using our mobile CAD terminals to check out an event.”
Data from December 2018 show a 40 percent increase in what police describe as “total dispatched events,” which includes “traffic stops, calls for service and follow-up investigations” over the same figure from December 2017.
All told, Woodfin Police reported 750 total dispatched events in December 2018 compared to 534 in December 2017. At January’s Board of Aldermen meeting, data would show even more significant growth in total events responded to contrasted to the previous year, with 950 in January 2019 and 582 in January 2018.
Calls for service are not necessarily calls requesting assistance from the police, Dykes said.
The final numbers are in the police department’s forthcoming annual report, according to Dykes, but some individual statistics were made available during the Tribune’s meeting with the chief.
“911 calls were actually slightly down from last year,” he said, “but it’s a five percent, almost a six percent increase over the five-year average. Last year we had 1,164 calls received by 911. That’s 12 fewer than what we had in 2017,” but it’s within the department’s expected range.
“If you like statistics and start talking about standard deviation, then the first standard deviation” could explain the slight increases or decreases reported by police staff. Calls for service have been trending upward, though, Dykes said.
“There shows, when we look at the average, there is a trend in the rise in calls, but that one was a low percentage, 5.88 percent.” The fact that more people live in the Woodfin area than did last year also contributes to the overall increase in calls for service, Dykes said.
“One of the big factors for increased calls for service last year is more of our residents are taking advantage of our security checks, the residential security check. They can call in, or they can actually go online and fill out the form and email it to us, ask us to keep an eye on their property while they’re out of town.
“Our number for that actually doubled from 2017 to 2018,” Dykes said. The program has existed for at least as long as Dykes has been in Woodfin, but “a lot more folks are taking advantage of it. Also, a big part of that is how we record it. Previously, folks would just drive by an address and not log it down into the system.
“We’re now onto the, ‘hey, these folks are asking us to check on their residences.’ Part of the program will record when they ask for that security check. We can send them a letter that says, ‘hey, during the time that you were out, during the two weeks or whatever, we checked on your residence x amount of times. Here are the dates and times that we stopped by and checked on it.’”
To fulfill their end of the agreement, Woodfin police must, “…at the very minimum [do] a visual inspection, try to see as much of the property as possible. Some of the residences we go to, it’s a little more difficult. In those cases, we have to actually get out of the car, walk around, because you might not be able to see the back door from the roadway.”
Dykes really doesn’t know why more people seem to be taking advantage of the town’s residential security check program, but he knows that the police are doing a lot more of them.