Chief: Single-Officer Cruisers Working

Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger said initial statistics gathered since the department switched to single-officer patrol cruisers in January show the strategy has been effective.

Calls for service have increased 40 percent since the switch, Schwertfeger disclosed Monday during the East Wheeling Neighborhood Watch meeting. Calls for service, he continued, include traffic stops, as well as officer-initiated calls, like a patroling officer spotting a suspicious person on the street.

The stats do not indicate a spike in the citys crime rate, he noted, but show that more cruisers on the street means more activity among officers — something he said will effectively curb crime.

“With officers’ activity up, crime statistics will go down,” Schwertfeger said Monday during the East Wheeling Neighborhood Watch meeting.

Following many months of public debate, petition drives and lawsuits, Wheeling voters in November elected to repeal the decades-old law requiring that two police officers ride in each patrol car. The policy was implemented in January.

Also during the meeting, Schwertfeger said the city will be employing a new targeted patrol strategy that divides the city into three main areas. The districts will be set as follows:

– Lt. Rob Marriner will be in charge of the South District, which will include areas south of 10th Street.

– Lt. Phil Redford will be in charge of the North District, which will include areas north of 10th Street and Wheeling Island.

– Lt. Mike Anderson will be in charge of the East District, which will include all areas east of Wheeling Hill along National Road.

“Eventually, every one of our officers will be assigned to a district,” Schwertfeger said.

Main Street resident Charles Ballouz said he applauds Schwertfeger’s actions regarding the patrol districts and the single-officer cruisers.

“I am now seeing more of a police presence in the downtown area,” Ballouz said.

William Ihlenfeld, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia, also addressed the watch group Monday. He thanked local police agencies and residents for their cooperation in dealing with criminal activity.