Chief wants more officers
Burglaries concern Amherst police
AMHERST – Police want to reduce neighborhood property crime, and to do that, they need more officers, the police chief told town officials last week.
The Amherst Police Department has 18 full-time officers, and Chief Mark Reams told the Board of Selectmen and the Budget Committee he would like at least one additional officer.
Beginning around 2005, retail development along Route 101A began draining the department’s resources away from residential neighborhoods, the chief said, because of the substantial police resources they require.
Although Amherst hasn’t seen a great increase in home burglaries, he said, what there is has become alarming.
"Each one is a personal, invasive crime," Reams said. "People want to see cops in their neighborhoods. They don’t want to see the cars down 101A all day."
Additional officers would allow for more police presence on town roads to better deter residential property crime, he said.
Nineteen officers would give the town "three-car coverage" most of the time – meaning three police cruisers for each of the four town sectors. Two more officers would increase that coverage to 100 percent, Reams said.
The current two-car model, he said, is 25 years old and no longer serves the town’s needs.
Reams, who has been asking for more officers since at least 2013, told town officials that about two months ago, a home surveillance system recorded a man carrying a plastic bag walking around the first floor of a house near the Amherst- Bedford border. The video, which can be seen on the department’s Facebook page, shows the suspect taking cash and jewelry.
"The guy was trotting around the living room," Reams said.
Along with reducing neighborhood property crime, other department goals are increasing traffic safety along roads and in residential areas and reducing the use and availability of illicit drugs.
Reams would also like to increase officer training, and he said more room at the station would help.
The Amherst Police Department occupies about half of its 10,000-square-foot building, and comparable New Hampshire agencies have 12,000 square feet, he said. The space was made available by the merger of EMS and the Fire Department.
Additional Police Department space is in the town’s Capital Improvement Plan, which says the need "has been slowly developing over the past 17 years." It also notes that refurbishing the fire station should come first.
The chief’s presentation is part of the initial stages of the town’s budget planning process, with town department heads reviewing their current and future needs for selectmen and the Budget Committee. It is part of a strategic planning process that the board initiated a few years ago.
Budget Committee Chairman John D’Angelo told Reams his PowerPoint presentation was excellent and "far more persuasive" than previous ones.
Reams also revised his department’s mission statement. It now says the department strives to "promote safety, foster justice and inspire trust." He said he was prompted to do that after the violent incidents around the country involving police and community members – "some tragic, some disappointing," he said.
"We are here to strengthen the quality of life" in Amherst, Reams said, "and try to do our best with compassion."
Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.