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Hooksett police chief says first year went well

Union Leader Correspondent

January 26. 2014 10:04PM

HOOKSETT — It has been an interesting first year for Hooksett Police Chief Peter Bartlett.

After spending 25 years as a Manchester police officer, he came to the chief's job just months before the Police Commission that hired him dissolved. He supervised a massive overhaul of the department's computer software, and saw reports of both crime and arrests rise.

"I would say that crime has increased (2013 compared to 2012) and police activity has increased as a result. The volume of calls we have gotten over the last year, which involves more violent crime, bears that out. It is definitely something to be vigilant of," Bartlett said.

In 2012, the department made 646 arrests and took 1,745 reports. In 2013, the department made 719 arrests and took 2,100 reports.

• Rape: Six reports in 2012, seven in 2013;

• Simple assault: 77 reports in 2012, 84 in 2013;

• DWI: 35 in 2012, 71 in 2013;

• Robberies: Six in 2012, six in 2013;

• Aggravated assault: 13 in 2012, eight in 2013.

"The increase in reports could be a result of us communicating better with the community. We put out a lot of press releases and have held two meetings with the public, so hopefully that has had an impact," Bartlett said.

He said he has put more emphasis on growing the town's neighborhood watch program, which currently has only one active group. (See story, Page B1.)"We could use the extra eyes and ears, and that extra community involvement is crucial for any modern policing agency," Bartlett said.

Shoplifting reports

He also hopes to see the department's roster expanded.

"We are budgeted for 25 officers right now, and I would like to see that increase to 29," Bartlett said.

Bartlett said that since the department spends a lot of time dealing with theft and shoplifting reports on the west side of town, he would like to have a dedicated unit on patrol there at all times. Shoplifting is the town's largest crime category; there were 171 reports in 2012 and 172 in 2013, he said.

"By adding four officers I could have three cars on the street 24 hours, seven days a week. There is a lot of commercial development out there and more is coming," Bartlett said.

Time-saving software

One of the main goals of his first year was accomplished by a $130,000 software overhaul.

"The new software went live on Dec. 10, and it, along with the new tablets in all the cruisers, will allow officers to file police reports right from their cruisers while giving them improved access to other agencies like the DMV. With the old system there were nine separate people who touched every report before it was approved and put in the system. Now we will have our officers spending less time on paperwork and more time in the field," Bartlett said.

The software will also allow the department to keep better track of crime statistics, Bartlett said.

"We can look at the stats as they come in and we can make better decisions because of it. The software will help us save money that way," Bartlett said.

The changes instituted by Bartlett haven't gone unnoticed by police officers.

"I think the changes have been very beneficial to us; we are already starting to see results. It streamlines how we have done business compared to the past," Capt. Jon Daigle said.

Goodbye, commission

Bartlett also said he wants to get his officers to think about crime prevention more creatively.

"I am looking to get the officers to a position where they can think proactively for things like DWI enforcement and speed enforcement. We have a lot of traffic go through this community, and I think if vigilant in those areas we can have a big impact in accident reduction," Bartlett said.

In May, after residents voted to dissolve the Police Commission, every commissioner resigned, leaving oversight of the department to Town Administrator Dean Shankle and the Town Council.

"Honestly I worked very well with them, they are great people, and I was embracing the process when I first got here," Bartlett said of the commission. "When the change happened I committed to the town council and town administrator that I would do the same thing with them."

Shankle and Town Council Chairman James Sullivan agreed with Bartlett that the transition was seamless.

"I think he has had a very good first year," Sullivan said.

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