Proposed James City police zones seek to reduce response times

Jimmy LaRoue
Contact Reporterjlarouejr@vagazette.com

County police chief Brad Rinehimer has proposed increasing the manpower in his 98-person department because of concerns about increasing response times and call volumes in a growing county.

Average response times have crept up nearly a minute in the last seven fiscal years — from 6:19 in the county's 2009 fiscal year, to 7:14 in fiscal year 2016. Fiscal years in James City County begin July 1 and end June 30.

As response times slow, the number of calls requiring officers to respond also has increased. Two of the department's five police zones are responding to well above the 3,000 calls per year Rinehimer says his department can comfortably handle. He said in the last two years, the department has seen its highest-ever call volumes.

The increasing call volume, response times and population are all drivers in Rinehimer's proposal to add 12 new officers over the next two years at a cost of more than $1.6 million. The proposal also includes increasing police zones from five to seven.

That cost would be if all 12 officers are added at once. The per-officer cost in the first year on the force is $135,000. After that the cost goes down to $65,000 per year, Rinehimer said. Staffing each zone requires six officers.

A growing county

James City has grown in recent years and will likely continue to grow. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the county's population at 73,667 through June 2016, up more than 6,000 people since the 2010 census total of 67,009.

The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission estimates the county will be home to 77,632 people by 2020, and 89,940 by 2030. The University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service projects the county's population at 86,142 by 2020 and 136,736 by 2030.

"People move here for a reason, and one of the primary reasons is because it's safe," Rinehimer said. "It's a safe community. I'm doing everything I can to make sure it stays that way, and that requires us to think ahead."

Rinehimer said population density is getting higher in the central part of the county.

The police chief hasn't yet decided how to reconfigure the service zones. Zone 4 — in the central area of the county which the Jamestown District and parts of the Powhatan District — is a likely target to either split the zone or add a new one. It also depends on any new staffing the board of supervisors agree to.

The police chief said he would likely try to move the boundary to Zone 2 in the lower end of the county, in the Roberts District.

And in the upper end of the county, Rinehimer said a possibility would be to move the southern boundary of Zone 5, which now runs in roughly the same area as the Stonehouse District.

Those moves could improve response time, the chief said.

Planning for more people

County administrator Bryan Hill said the county has already approved close to 15,000 buildable lots, meaning growth will come as those lots are developed.

"As a county administrator, my goal is to ensure that I have road networking for those 15,000 lots, as well as public safety, as well as good schools," Hill said. "So if I don't start planning now before they're built, I cannot have that for the future without building for it today, without planning for it today."

Hill said the county's comprehensive plan calls for response times of 6 minutes within the primary service area. Those are areas which either already have, or are expected to have in the next 20 years, public water, sewer and high levels of other public services.

"We are a large and growing community, and we have more people outside of the (public service area) and our own calls for service are growing dramatically," Hill said.

Hill said within the public service area, the 6-minute response time is not an issue. Though areas within the public service area are growing, areas outside of it, such as the Stonehouse and Powhatan districts, are also gaining population.

"This is all about Stonehouse and Powhatan, more so than Jamestown, Berkeley and Roberts," Hill said.

Though areas such as the Williamsburg Premium Outlets, in the Powhatan District, and Busch Gardens, in the Roberts District receive a high volume of calls, Hill said police can respond in an adequate timeframe. The police department has a slower response outside of those zones Hill said.

Supervisors react

"We've been running on thin staffing ever since the impact of the Great Recession," said Roberts District supervisor John McGlennon, "and I think we want to be very proactive in examining the effect that's having on our ability to respond to an ever-more challenging public safety environment. So I take the chief's recommendations very seriously."

Rinehimer said call volume, geography and response times — rather than crime trends — that are the main drivers in determining police zone staffing needs.

If growth trends hold, Rinehimer said the department may need to look at adding substations in the county. The existing main station is based along Opportunity Way near Lightfoot.

Ruth Larson, vice chairwoman of the county board of supervisors, said she learned a lot about the changes in law enforcement during a ride-along with police.

"If I had to take anecdotal data from my ride-along," Larson said, "I can see why the chief would want to talk about increasing budgets."

LaRoue can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342.

Calls for service (fiscal year 2013-2016)

2013

Zone 1: 4,340

Zone 2: 4,573

Zone 3: 4,678

Zone 4: 5,444

Zone 5: 2,966

Unknown: 190

Total: 19,539

2014

Zone 1: 4,573

Zone 2: 3,453

Zone 3: 3,097

Zone 4: 5,855

Zone 5: 3,008

Unknown: 189

Total: 20,175

2015

Zone 1: 4,678

Zone 2: 3,391

Zone 3: 3,466

Zone 4: 6,033

Zone 5: 3,126

Unknown: 181

Total: 20,875

2016

Zone 1: 5,206

Zone 2: 3,655

Zone 3: 3,365

Zone 4: 6,617

Zone 5: 3,149

Unknown: 233

Total: 22,225

Difference 2013-2016

Zone 1: 866 (20 percent)

Zone 2: 158 (4.5 percent)

Zone 3: 263 (8.5 percent)

Zone 4: 1,173 (21.5 percent)

Zone 5: 183 (6.2 percent)

Unknown: 43 (22.6 percent)

Source: James City County Police Department

Response times (for emergency and in-progress events, by fiscal year)

2013: 6:33

2014: 6:30

2015: 7:03

2016: 7:14

Source: James City County Police Department

Workload increases (2013-2016)

Resident calls for service: up 14 percent, from 19,539 to 22,225

Criminal incidents: up 28 percent, from 2,750 to 3,508

Criminal offenses: up 20 percent, from 3,323 to 3,996

Non-criminal offenses: up 49 percent, from 451 to 672

Reports written: up 31 percent, from 3,198 to 4,175

Vehicle crashes: up 18 percent, from 778 to 910.

Source: James City County Police Department

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