BOWIE – Police Chief John Nesky provided his semi-annual report to the Bowie City Council on Monday, and the police department has been busy.
Boasting a 53 percent closure rate, the department has seen drops in the number of residential and commercial burglaries, and a slight decline in incidences of assault. But Nesky said thefts from auto are a continuing to be an issue in the city, along with recent reports of gunshot-like sounds in Old Bowie neighborhoods.
“We’ve been out there. One time we actually witnessed fireworks; that doesn’t mean it is fireworks all the time. It’s happening a little too frequently for everybody’s sake,” Nesky said. “We’ve got to reach out to the county to see what information they have and see if we can figure out where it’s coming from because it’s never the same place twice. It bounces, and we’re having trouble locating exactly what’s going on.”
The city has also encountered some “snags here and there” with their new call center, but all of them have been worked out once discovered, and Nesky said they remain on track to begin dispatching by the end of the year. Having its own dispatch system will help the department to respond to incidents faster and to better track crime trends.
“One of the pluses of having our own channel is that we will have our own reports coded a different way. So we’ll be able to pull stats and run individual reports a little more easily than we can being tied into the county system,” Nesky said.
Overall, the department has received 22,312 calls to the call center so far this year.
Outreach to Bowie residents has also been a major focus for the police department, Nesky said. From events like ‘Cop for A Day’ and ‘Coffee with a Cop’ to volunteering at Champs House, which is dedicated to helping people with long-term drug and alcohol addictions, the department has been going into communities to meet and interact with the public it serves. Another new initiative is the teen zone at the recently-renovated Bowie branch of the Prince George’s County Memorial Library.
“Officers come in and kind of hang out with the kids, play a few board games,” Nesky said. We’ll see how that goes. It’s a chance for us to interact with some people, especially the younger folks, in a different setting and hopefully build a few bonds and break some barriers down.”
Several on the council praised the department’s efforts to build relationships with the public.
“I’m really encouraged to see the teen zone and the ‘Coffee with a Cop’ and that type of deal. It’s really getting to the basis of community policing, which I think is the only way to police,” said Councilwoman Courtney Glass. “That’s the only way to build that trust, especially in these days and times where there can be some divide. I think you guys are doing a phenomenal job of getting rid of that divide.”
Councilman James Marcos asked about the number of patrol cars on the streets, in response to concerns raised by Old Bowie residents about a perceived lack of presence in their communities.
“How do you divide the time where they go? We’re still battling that perception that a lot of residents in Old Town feel like they’re being – not seeing many cars patrolling up there – feel that I guess Belair and the newer part of Bowie gets more attention,” Marcos said. “I see a lot of them up there.”
Nesky said the minimum operating strength is five officers, one supervisor and four patrol officers in cars. He added that police vehicles are equipped with GPS tracking capabilities and if residents have concerns about the police coverage in their area, they can see that data and judge for themselves if the preconception is accurate.
“We did draw geofences in certain areas, mostly letter sections, just for ease, but I can keep track of when we’ve been in an area and when we have not,” Nesky said. “I think if someone would like to direct that (concern) directly to me, I’d be happy to pull that information for them.”