Blackhawk police different from 'privacy staff' | June 27, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - June 27, 2008

Blackhawk police different from 'privacy staff'

Police teaching residents when to call which service

by Meghan Neal

The Blackhawk Police are trying to increase their visibility, to make sure residents in the area know who they are and what they do.

A $280 annual parcel tax pays for a lieutenant and three deputies from the county sheriff's office that exclusively serve Blackhawk. They are overseen by a county-appointed advisory committee.

At its monthly meeting in June the committee discussed strategies to educate residents about their community police force.

"Part of this public education and getting the word out is to make sure people know we're here for them," said Lt. Alan Johnson, police services manager.

"We have found, despite the difference in uniforms and different vehicles and all our efforts to explain, there's still a lot of confusion as far as the delineation of duties - who does what," he said.

To make it clearer, the committee decided to repaint three police vehicles to say "Blackhawk Police" in large letters on the door. The new cars will be ready and on the street in about two months.

"It'll really get the name out there and get people recognizing that we're here for them," Johnson said.

The paint job will cost about $1,500 per car, which will come from traffic ticket revenues.

Johnson said the new black-and-white cars will also be more "eye catching" and should get people to slow down.

"I'd love to never write another ticket ever in my whole career," he said. "If painting the cars will get us there, or another step closer, I think it's a great idea."

Part of residents' confusion is because they mix up the duties of the police vs. the Blackhawk privacy staff, which mans the gates and enforces Homeowners Association rules. It has no police powers, such as making arrests or writing citations.

But too often people will call the privacy staff about a parking problem, or call police about a landscaping problem, said Johnson.

On June 1, the privacy staff implemented a new phone system that makes it simpler to transfer misdirected calls directly to police dispatch.

Under the old system transferring calls was cumbersome and often the resident would just hang up, leaving staff members that aren't trained in taking police reports to relate the situation to the officer. Police predict the new phones will save time and enhance safety.

"We're really excited about that because it really does help," said the lieutenant.

"It's all about the public safety," he said, adding, "It's public safety and community policing. We also need to be able to help people with issues that aren't emergencies."

Non-emergency, "quality of life" services include vacation checks or patrol requests; the latter is an opportunity for residents who might be concerned about suspicious activity to request an officer monitor the neighborhood.

The vast majority of the calls police receive are for these kinds of services, said Johnson. On average, out of 500-600 calls per month, one to five are felonies and eight to 12 are misdemeanors.

In another effort to get the word out, the committee plans to order custom-made "Blackhawk Police" magnets to distribute among the area's 6,900 residents.

Johnson also publishes a bi-monthly insert in the HOA newsletter with the latest police news. The next one will come out in July.

The group is already planning for its next Town Hall Meeting, in November. For the last year-and-a-half, police have hosted these community meetings every three or four months to discuss topics like identity theft and Internet security.

November's meeting is a "back to basics" discussion, Johnson said. It's a chance to explain "what we are, what we do ... and the general issues concerning Blackhawk."

He hopes increasing visibility will help police "preserve what we already have here in Blackhawk: a strong community, good partnerships between businesses and homeowners and a safe place to work and live - and play."

Know the difference

Call police with:

• Traffic violations including parking or speeding

• Disturbance of the peace

• Criminal or suspicious activity

• Requests for vacation checks or patrols

• Dispatch: 646-2441

Blackhawk Police offices: 736-1018

Call privacy staff with:

• HOA rules violations

• Inappropriate use of landscaping elements (trees or fences)

• Improper property maintenance

• Visitor lists

Gate contact: 736-6446

Business: 736-6440