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By Jeff Barnes
BOWIE – Bowie Police saw a nearly 75 percent increase in police calls for service in 2018, Police Chief John Nesky told the Bowie City Council during a police force update last week.
Among those numbers were decreases in residential burglaries, auto thefts and robberies, and increases in commercial burglaries, assaults and thefts, Nesky said during the March 18 council meeting.
“Now some of that jump is more calls for service from residents, and some is more proactive engagement by the officers,” Nesky said. “So when the officers call out on a self-initiated call, that goes in as a call for service, as well.”
Nesky also said the numbers do not account for incomplete monthly totals from December 2017, when the department began self-dispatching.
Overall, the department had 39,718 calls for service in 2018, up from 22,818 in the year prior, according to the police department’s numbers. Auto thefts had the largest decrease at more than 35 percent. Residential burglaries dropped almost 20 percent and robberies dropped more than 35 percent.
The largest increase came in commercial robberies, which saw a spike of more than 150 percent, which Nesky attributed to a string of robberies along Route 301. Assaults increased more than 20 percent and thefts increases almost 15 percent, according to the police department’s numbers.
Nesky said that much of the increase in theft can be attributed to an increase in thefts from auto and a “considerable bump” in reports of shoplifting, which increased almost 65 percent.
“We have been working with retailers, some of them are more cooperative than others,” he said. “But we are trying to find a way to help curtail that.”
Police have also been more active in enforcing moving violations and that photo enforcement has helped reduce the number of speeding citations, Nesky said. Councilmember Michael Esteve questioned the uptick in assaults and asked if the police had any insights into increases in that category.
“I don’t want to give the impression it’s people jumping out of the bushes and punching other people,” Nesky said. “All the assailants are known to each other.”
Councilmember Dufour Woolfley thanked Nesky for the department’s performance, citing a study last month by SafeHome.org that named Bowie as Maryland’s third-safest city to live, based on 2018 FBI data.
“A lot, of course, has to do with the good work that your officers are doing,” Woolfley said.
Mayor G. Frederick Robinson said he was very impressed with the department’s performance and Nesky’s commitment to fulfilling his duties. He said that Nesky has hit every milestone he has been asked to hit and joked that his services have become expensive for the city.
“We’re very proud of the progress that you guys have made and the level of service that you provide our community,” he said.
Before Nesky’s presentation, city resident Del Billings – who also serves as chair of the city’s Public Safety Committee – voiced concerns about the department’s ability to keep up with the city’s anticipated growth the next few years.
Billings said that the Public Safety Committee will be recommending a three-to-five year plan in its budget request to help fulfill the need for new officers and to replace those who will be leaving the department through retirement.
“We’re lucky that we have a very, very safe city – that our officers do a great job patrolling it,” Billings said. “We need to make sure that continues. We need to make sure that we have sufficient officers on board.”
The department currently has three openings and 59 officers on the street, Nesky said. He added that “recruitment remains a challenge,” with marijuana laws becoming more relaxed and an overall decrease in people who want to become police officers.
“It is a challenge, given some of the trials the profession has been under lately,” Nesky said. “It’s not exactly people’s number one priority in job choice. It’s just a shifting in generations as well.”