WILTON — Factors that can tip the balance between providing public safety and achieving fiscal responsibility were explained by police Chief Heidi Wilcox during a community presentation Wednesday at Calzolaio Pasta Co.
“We provide the best services we can with what we have,” Wilcox told the small gathering hosted by the Wilton Group.
Wilcox provided an overview of issues the department faces, discussed the work of her six-officer force and future plans to meet and listen to community members. She also answered questions.
Domestic violence assaults continue to plague the community, Wilcox said. Nine assaults occurred in January alone, 16 in the last three months. Children and the community are affected, not just those directly involved, she said.
About six burglaries occurred in the last three months, two reported this week. Certain drugs are on the rise, she said, and bath salts are here and huffing is back.
The department also deals with scams targeting seniors. One reported this week involved a call supposedly from the town office where the woman was asked her name, her birthday and her Social Security number, she said.
These are community problems that the police take seriously, she said.
With the help of grants — about $50,000 this year — the department has acquired some tools needed to help officers do their job, including a new software system and cruiser laptops.
While the system is linked to other departments and keeps information on criminals available, it also keeps track of information needed for the officers to interact with the special emotional or medical needs of residents. When an Alzheimer's disease patient wandered from his home in the middle of the night last winter, police scrambled to find his family, she said.
Residents can provide police with contact and other vital information to help the officer at the scene, she said.
They can also alert police to vacations for checks on their homes.
"We'd rather check 10 times than be called for a burglary," she said.
Other tools obtained include Tasers, firearms, digital recorders and a four-wheel vehicle, she said.
"It's a necessary tool," she said. She described incidents where police were not able to respond because cruisers couldn't make the hills in winter.
Providing the tools needed is one way to keep the officers on the force but it has to balance with the department's budget, Wilcox said.
Grants are helpful but are time consuming, both to write and monitor, taking away from other duties.
Wilcox is in the process of forming a police advisory group of residents vested in the town and aware of the needs. The proposal needs to go before selectmen but she wants to listen to the community before making decisions, she said.
She also wants to hold an annual open house at the police station to explain procedures to residents and to compile a community survey to serve as a baseline for how the community feels and where it wants to go, she said.
One residents ask about the Raymond "Butch" Weed murder investigation. Weed was found shot to death in his home on Dec. 23, 2003. The murder was never solved.
Wilcox reassured residents that the case is still open and active.
"It's not forgotten," she said.
She has requested that state police assign a detective who has helped Wilton in the past and spoke positively of an eventual resolution.