BERRYVILLE — The Berryville Police Department may need to hire at least one more officer if its workload keeps increasing.
From January through June, the department responded to 1,156 calls for assistance.
That reflects a 24% increase in calls from the same period in 2018. And, the call volume during the first six months of last year showed a 25% spike from the same period in 2017, says Police Chief Neal White.
In an email to The Star, White said he believes the increases are largely due to four factors: a population increase in Berryville, officers being called upon more to mediate disputes, an increasing number of calls involving mental health issues and continuing negative effects of the opioid epidemic.
Statistics presented Tuesday to Town Council show that police have responded to 101 alarm calls so far this year, ranging from burglar alarms to devices that sound when older people fall. Councilwoman Donna Marie McDonald noted that police have responded to as many as eight alarm calls in a day.
“Eventually,” McDonald said, “we’re going to have to consider (funding) a new officer”
White indicated he agrees.
Berryville currently has nine sworn police officers, including White.
Census figures show that Berryville’s population increased by 41% in the past decade, from 2,963 in 2000 to 4,185 in 2010. Another Census will be conducted next year.
Although efforts are made to keep Clarke County mostly rural and control its growth, officials say Berryville and the county could attract more residents in the future as people who work in nearby urban communities seek to live in a less-hectic place.
Alarm calls comprise the largest category of calls so far this year in Berryville. Other large categories include complaints about animals (84), suspicious activities (69), personal welfare checks (68), mental health crises (49), civil complaints (34), noise complaints (32), harassment/intimidation (22), juvenile problems (18), larcenies (17), vandalism (17), disturbances (14), calls to assist the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office (12) and fraud incidents (12).
There also have been 575 calls so far this year labeled as “miscellaneous complaints.” Other call numbers — including possible assaults, domestic disturbances, burglaries, robberies and trespassing incidents — have been in the single digits. Generally, calls to those categories were placed to the Clarke County 911 Communications Center or the police department directly, with someone asking for a police officer’s help, White said.
“I utilize this data set as a general base to see how ‘busy’ officers are responding to the safety and welfare needs of the community,” White wrote in his email.
However, the data does not include other work that officers perform, including traffic and parking law enforcement and providing security for community events, White pointed out.
Statistics also show that so far this year, Berryville police have issued 501 parking citations, 211 traffic citations and 208 warnings. They also have investigated 21 traffic accidents, provided 10 funeral escorts and installed nine child safety seats for parents.
The 211 traffic citations issued included 89 for speeding, 41 for failing to obey highway signs, 34 for expired inspection stickers, 11 for expired registrations, eight for driving without a license, four for failing to obey traffic signals, four for failing to yield the right of way, three for reckless driving and three for driving with a suspended license. There also were 14 in the category of “miscellaneous summons.”