HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - A growing city calls for more policing and it's leading to changes in the Huntsville Police Department. Patrol shifts are being restructured to get more officers on the streets.
Rheajoela Caldwell is the president of the Huntsville Community Watch Association, which is made up of more than 160 watch groups from neighborhoods across the city. Some have as many as 700 households that participate in neighborhood watch, as well as local apartment complexes.
She weighed in on the Huntsville Police Department moving their patrol officers from working five days a week with eight hour shifts, to working four days a week with 10 hour shifts. It's geared at making the division more efficient.
"I think it's a wonderful idea. Anything that will increase manpower on the streets and officer visibility sounds like a great plan to me," Caldwell said. "I know how much they're helpful to me and just seeing them out and about is a deterrent to crime. So if we can get more officers on the street, I think it's awesome."
Lt. Michael Johnson, the department's public information officer, said it will allow for better handling of calls for service.
"It's a management style that's working better for agencies throughout the country and it's something we're going to go to. It's going to serve the citizens of Huntsville a little bit better. We're able to spread the officers out with these 10 hour shifts during peak times, and during 24 hours, have more officers actually on shift," he explained. "In a seven day week, they will work four days and have three days off. They'll have an additional off day. Right now, they only have two off days."
The change will go into effect on May 7. Certain units will remain on five days a week with eight hour shifts, including school resource officers and the DUI task force.
"As we're growing as a city, we're noticed trends through this growth covering the 200 square miles, it's more efficient to have more cops on the street during peak hours during a shift. And with these 10 hour shifts, we'll be able to do that," Lt. Johnson said. "We'll be able to get to calls a lot quicker. Traditionally, your car wrecks, domestics, any traffic-related problems occur during those hours of 1-5 p.m. so we'll have twice as many officers during those particular hours."
The decision was made by the police chief and his staff.
"We've already tried it in the west precinct back in 2017. The majority of them liked it then," Johnson stated.
"From time to time at apartment complexes, we hear about car break-ins and occasionally someone will break into a house. If we have patrol or we see the officers and they know someone is watching them, that helps a whole lot. That's one of the biggest deterrents. I think it's one of the reasons community watch works so well and then with the increased police presence, it's a win-win situation," Caldwell added.
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