Sheriff: Number of Bethel incident calls down in OCSD years
Over the two-and-one-half years since the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department took over coverage of Bethel from the Bethel Police Department, the total number of incidents reported has dropped.
Sheriff Wayne Gallant attributes the decline to an increased number of both county and state police officers in Bethel.
“At the start we had lots of calls,” he said last week. “But visibility is one of the best deterrents.”
It’s not just the visibility of the officer on duty, however. It’s the presence of the OCSD substation officer at the Norway Savings Bank building on Parkway, said Gallant.
Deputies patrolling in other area towns often come to that station instead of South Paris to do paperwork and other tasks.
“People see one or two cruisers at the office or traveling through town, it has an effect on the traveling public and on the criminal element,” he said. “The State Police also use our office in Bethel, so you see more activity. A big presence is slowing down call volumes.”
Gallant provided statistics on incident calls for the past three years.
In 2010 calls (including those for the first half of the year, when the Bethel Police Department was still in existence), totaled 1,573; in 2011 1,416; and through Dec. 6 this year, 1,134.
Because this year is not yet over and calls typically increase as the ski season gets underway, no final conclusion can yet be drawn.
“We’re having a little lull right now because ski season hasn’t started yet,” Gallant said. “We will pick up with OUIs.”
The incidents are broken down into some 90 categories. In some individual categories, the numbers increased from one year to another.
OUIs are an example: in 2010 they totaled 13; in 2011 35; and through Dec. 6 this year, nine.
That was also true for total arrests: in 2010, 54 adults were arrested; in 2011 81, and through Dec. 6, 41.
The five categories with the largest numbers were: property-damage traffic accidents (123 in 2010, 105 in 2011, 68 in 2012); traffic offenses (123 in 2010, 107 in 2011, 96 in 2012); property theft (80 in 2010, 56 in 2011, 54 in 2012); suspicious activity (76 in 2010, 58 in 2011, 47 in 2012); and response to alarms (73 in 2010, 95 in 2011, 93 in 2012). Most alarm calls prove to be false alarms.
Gallant said the primary reason for residential burglaries in recent years has been the theft of copper for sale as scrap metal.
As for what he sees as the primary driving force behind crime in general, “the economy has some effect on crimes, but as far as I’m concerned addiction is the driving factor.”
Gallant was asked what he has heard for reaction from residents on seeing more officers and cruisers in Bethel.
“Every once in a while we get somebody who says ‘It seems like overkill up here,’ but I tell them this is one of our functioning offices,” he said.
But most comments are supportive, he said.
“One man who was dead set against us taking over said, ‘I didn’t think it was going to work, but this has worked out great for us,’” said Gallant.