Using Wheeling Police Effectively

Wheeling residents are enjoying the fruit of their decision last fall to abandon an old restriction on how city police are deployed.

And it appears police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger is making more effective use of his officers.

Last fall, city voters agreed to rescind a rule requiring that most on-duty police cruisers be staffed by two officers.

That has given Schwertfeger the flexibility to send out more patrols, using one officer per cruiser when that is safe and two when situations call for that.

In January, police activity was up by about 40 percent, Schwertfeger reported this week.

That does not mean more crime, just more of what might be termed vigilance, due to the department’s ability to have more officers in more places and at more times. In fact, the chief said, “With officers’ activity up, crime statistics will go down.”

Schwertfeger is using a new targeted patrol strategy in which the city is divided into three zones, with a police lieutenant in charge in each. Individual officers will be assigned to specific zones.

That is nothing new. It amounts only to the “beat” system used by many police departments. But Schwertfeger’s plan should make Wheeling residents more comfortable with the individual officers who serve their neighborhoods, and vice versa.

Undoubtedly, that will improve the department’s ability to serve and protect.

Voters acted wisely last fall and Schwertfeger is to be commended for using the flexibility to maximize results from the change.