GROUND BRO­KEN FOR $5 MIL­LION PO­LICE COM­PLEX

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Matt Free­man

A crowd of about 50 or more looked on Wed­nes­day morn­ing as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the South­ern Ch­ester County Re­gional Po­lice broke ground on the force’s fu­ture head­quar­ters.

Lo­cal politi­cians, emer­gency med­i­cal tech­ni­cians, fire­fight­ers, and po­lice of­fi­cers were in the au­di­ence at New Gar­den Park at 8934 Gap New­port Pike. A drone buzzed in the over­cast sky, record­ing the event as the rains mer­ci­fully held off for the du­ra­tion.

Chief Ger­ald Simp­son, who heads the re­gional force, said its mem­bers de­served a mod­ern head­quar­ters that would al­low them to “serve the com­mu­nity at a very high level.”

In­ter­viewed af­ter the event, Simp­son said the 11,000-square­foot head­quar­ters in­cluded de­sign fea­tures like field­stone walls and a wooden trussed­beam en­trance to re­flect the county’s his­toric ar­chi­tec­ture. “That was im­por­tant to us,” he said.

The head­quar­ters, Simp­son said, will in­clude hold­ing cells, in­ter­view rooms, a locker room, a se­cure garage for un­load­ing pris­on­ers tech­ni­cally known as a “sally port,” and a mul­tipur­pose con­fer­ence room that will be avail­able to the pub­lic. Con­struc­tion would be com­plete in about a year, he said.

Simp­son stressed that the build­ing was de­signed as a com­fort­able, invit­ing place for area res­i­dents to in­ter­act with the force. “This is the com­mu­nity’s build­ing,” he said. “It re­ally is for the com­mu­nity.”

The head­quar­ters, which has an es­ti­mated cost of $4.5 mil­lion to $5 mil­lion, was de­signed by Sean Goodrick of Teve­baugh Ar­chi­tec­ture.

The cer­e­mony also in­cluded re­marks by Randy Geouque, chair of the New Gar­den Town­ship board of su­per­vi­sors, and Stephen Al­la­band, a New Gar­den su­per­vi­sor and chair of the South­ern Ch­ester County Re­gional Pub­lic Safety Com­mis-

sion.

The ground­break­ing for the new head­quar­ters comes not quite two years af­ter the force it­self was in­au­gu­rated in Jan­uary of last year. It came about through the merger of the full-time New Gar­den Town­ship Po­lice De­part­ment and the West Grove Bor­ough Po­lice De­part­ment, then a part-time force.

New Gar­den be­gan pro­vid­ing 24-hour lo­cal po­lice cov­er­age in the spring

of 2013. In 2014, Simp­son ap­proached the town­ship su­per­vi­sors about look­ing into re­gional polic­ing be­cause the de­mand for ser­vice had kept ris­ing. Af­ter sev­eral years of re­search and dis­cus­sion, the New Gar­den and West Grove forces com­bined into the re­gional force that ex­ists to­day.

Ac­cord­ing to the state De­part­ment of Com­mu­nity & Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment, the re­gional polic­ing ap­proach is grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity among mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties where rev­enues are not suf­fi­cient to fund a full range of po­lice ser­vices. Cur­rently, the de­part­ment says, there are more than 35 re­gional po­lice de­part­ments in the state that pro­vide ser­vice to more than 125 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

Ev­i­dently the ap­proach is work­ing for New Gar­den and West Grove. Ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased ear­lier this year, the re­gional force has seen low­ered crime rates and low­ered costs as well in its first year.

The re­port said se­ri­ous crimes such as mur­der, ag­gra­vated as­sault, rape, bur­glary, rob­bery, arson, and mo­tor ve­hi­cle theft were down 31 per­cent in 2017. Crimes such as forgery, em­bez­zle­ment, van­dal­ism, pros­ti­tu­tion, sim­ple as­sault, pub­lic drunk­en­ness, and other rel­a­tively less se­ri­ous of­fenses were down by 9.3 per­cent com­pared to 2016. DUI ar­rests were up 43.8 per­cent.

And the re­gional force ended up cost­ing nearly 10 per­cent less than pro­jected. New Gar­den town­ship pays 80 per­cent of the force’s yearly bud­get, at $1.7 mil­lion, and West Grove con­trib­utes the rest, a to­tal of $433,000 per year. Cur­rently the force has 20 sworn of­fi­cers, in­clud­ing the com­mand staff, and two civil­ian em­ploy­ees.

MATT FREE­MAN - FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Of­fi­cials break ground for a new re­gional po­lice com­plex. Po­lice Chief Ger­ald R. Simp­son is in the cen­ter.

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