Jody Scifres was the commander of the Violent Crimes Reduction Unit before he took over his post as deputy chief. He is pleased that his former unit is now fully staffed and feels that the community can reap the benefits. â€œAt that time (in 1999) we had a significant number of drive-by shootings. We still have them now, about two or three a month, but then we had two or three a day,â€ Due to previous staff shortages the unit was depleted, with only one man 18 months ago. Returning to full manpower has been a slow process.
â€œSix months ago we had two men. We had our fourth person start on Friday. Now we are up to a full staff of four detectives and one sergeant,â€ Scifres said. Sgt. Jon Meredith, head of the VCRU explained the logistics. â€œRoswell is divided into six districts.
We further subdivide it into 11 units, dividing five of the larger districts in half.â€ The area around Roswell International Air Center is an exception. â€œIt is small enough we donâ€™t have to divide it.â€ The unit focuses on gang activity. It identifies the problem areas and increases its visibility where gangs are concentrated. RPD wants to open up the lines of communication.
â€œWe need to know if people have concerns. People are our best way to obstruct crimes. If we have the information, then we would go there,â€ Scifres said. He admits there have been problems in the past. â€œWeâ€™ve been in survival mode. If youâ€™ve only got two or three guys out there on the streets, you think youâ€™ve got to take the report quickly. We donâ€™t mean to be rude.
â€œWeâ€™re not all-knowing, all-seeing. We canâ€™t be all places at all times. We need the help of the community,â€ Scifres said. Scifres promised now that the RPD has more staff, â€œyouâ€™ll be seeing a lot more of them.â€ Members of VCRU will not only be taking to the streets, they will be using other modes of transport besides their cars. â€œWhen we get on bikes, weâ€™re more approachable. We get waved over. Weâ€™ve taken to talking to people more. Itâ€™s nice to be able to talk to people when they are not in crisis,â€ Meredith said.
â€œThereâ€™s a lot of misinformation out there. People need to report any suspicious activity,â€ said Scifres. â€œPeople will see a lot of traffic, 20 or 30 cars a day stopping at a certain house, or a car full of people parking in front, and only one person goes into a house and stays for two or three minutes. Weâ€™ll go in on a bust and when we talk to the neighbors, we learn that they knew all along.â€
Scifres also recommends citizens direct their calls to the right division. â€œViolent Crimes Reduction Unit and the Drug Task Force are all part of the same division.â€ Drugs are the common denominator in most crimes. He urges people to check RPDâ€™s website.
â€œIf you donâ€™t have a computer, go to the library.â€ RPD also plans to release a most wanted list. â€œWe want to prevent crime,â€ he said. According to Scifres, most crimes are done by a small percentage of people. He estimates that about 1 to 2 percent of the people are responsible for 80 to 90 percent of the crimes.
â€œIf you know of someone thatâ€™s wanted, call the desk, call Crime Stoppers or go to the website,â€ Scifres said.
Meredith says the VCRU is a good place to start if you have information. â€œThereâ€™s nothing you canâ€™t call us on. Weâ€™re not just concerned with narcotics or violent crimes.â€ VCRU members will direct the information to the right department or division.
â€œOur goal is to make Roswell safer. Weâ€™re trying to get into the schools to talk to students. We get requests from the schools all the time, and we get positive feedback,â€ said Meredith.
If the issue is drug related, concerned citizens can call 623-8010. The number to the administrative offices is 624-6770; and website, http://www.roswellpolice.com