, Newburyport, MA

January 31, 2013

Rating the Amesbury police

Survey asks residents to weigh in on department

By Dave Rogers
Staff Writer

---- — AMESBURY — Want to have a say in how the Amesbury Police Department patrols your streets and keeps you safe?

Residents will have that chance in the form of a two-sided survey that been mailed to all households in the city. And police officials say all it takes is five or so minutes to put your stamp on how the department operates.

The five-part survey, which was included in a census mailing that recently went out from the city clerk’s office, asks residents to rate how much of an issue they view certain crimes in the city as well as how much residents support current or potential community policing programs.

Other sections ask residents to rate the overall performance of the Police Department, its staff and its effectiveness. There’s space for additional comments as well as an assessment of whether residents feel safe living in Amesbury.

“Their feedback is important,” Amesbury police Chief Mark Gagnon said. “All the residents are our customers.”

Gagnon said in the past, the survey has pointed out areas where the department could use some improvement as well as offered direction on how things could be changed. The department typically receives periodic feedback from senior citizens, businesses and schools. But he said the survey offers a chance for the department to dig deeper.

Sometimes the results can be surprising. Crime prevention officer Thomas Hanshaw said last year’s survey showed that residents rated the department’s abilities and performance higher than officials anticipated.

This year, Hanshaw said he is curious to learn how residents feel about certain programs, some of which have been phased out due to budget constraints. He pointed specifically to the now-defunct school resource officer. The program, which allowed an officer to be stationed inside local schools, was disbanded in the mid-2000s.

“It would be interesting if they want it back,” Hanshaw said.

Other programs highlighted in the survey include mountain bike patrols, a business crime watch, domestic violence assistance, senior citizen outreach, a neighborhood watch program and the crime prevention program.

“Past responses to this survey have helped bring back programs such as the mountain bike unit and domestic violence liaison. If there is a particular program you feel would be beneficial, please let us know,” the survey reads.

Hanshaw said completed surveys are to be collected and sent to Amesbury High School, where students in one or more statistics classes will tally up the results. He is hoping to have the surveys in the hands of students by mid-March, with results released by April.

This marks the fourth time the department has conducted the survey since it earned accreditation from the Police Accreditation Commission in 2001. The survey is part of the reaccreditation process. Last year, about 40 percent of the roughly 7,000 surveys mailed out were returned, according to Hanshaw.

Completed surveys can be dropped off at the city clerk’s office, 62 Friend St, or the Amesbury Police Department, 19 School St.