Cornelius Police Chief Al Roque updates city council on department's work, progress in the last year

AL ROQUECornelius Police Chief Al Roque recently updated city council members on the department's progress and challenges over the last year, citing an increase in both community involvement and crime to illustrate each point.

Roque started his update off Monday, July 10, with a long list of community events Cornelius Washington County Sheriff's Office deputies participated in, including outreach activities at schools, the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center, Centro Cultural and Veterans Memorial Park, as well as Veterans Day festivities and special events such as Coffee with a Cop.

Other department successes in 2016-17 included piloting body-worn cameras and adding more bicycle patrols. Increased bike patrols allow officers to "take a stealthier approach" when looking for people acting unlawfully in the parks, for example, or patrolling for crime suspects. The bikes also make officers more accessible, Roque said, and more people approach officers on bikes than when they're in squad cars.

Self-initiated stops have decreased over the last three fiscal years. During 2016-17, officers pursued 8,040 self-initiated calls. In 2015-16, Cornelius deputies had 8,706 self-initiated calls and 9,746 were recorded in 2014-15. Roque said he didn't have a clear explanation for the decrease but suspects it's because community events and outreach activities take up officers' time. The department also had a few officers in training, who aren't as experienced or efficient.

Crime data for the most recent fiscal year wasn't available at the time of Roque's update, but there were increases in thefts, harassment cases, sexual assaults, assaults and domestic disturbance calls between 2014-15 and 2015-16. Burglaries and menacing cases decreased.

Officers also arrested six suspects at a home near the intersection of Eighth Avenue and Ginger Street — where they seized one pound of methamphetamine and six firearms — this past year. Roque said the department's "See Something, Say Something" campaign, which encourages people to report any suspicious activity, helped officers gather needed information.

In addition, Roque said one of Cornelius' major issues is traffic violations. There are a lot of rear-end crashes and accidents occurring after drivers run red lights. Officers made roughly the same number of stops in 2016-17 as they did in 2014-15 but about 700 more than they did last year. Officers also handed out about 560 more warnings and nearly 150 more citations in 2016-17 than the year before.

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