Snyder's Sandwich: Town's Young Police And Fire Chiefs Getting It Done

Mark SnyderGENE M. MARCHAND/ENTERPRISE - Mark Snyder

Snyder’s Sandwich spoke with the town’s two public safety administrators, Police Chief Peter Wack and Fire Chief William Carrico. Both are 47 years old. Carrico is shiny and new, coming from a stint at fire chief in Lakeville. Wack has been here since July of 2010, and came from the Connecticut State Police.

They both have another thing in common. They have very tight budgets and not enough men and women on the streets. They also battle overtime costs.

State police statistics usually recommend that towns have two officers for every 1,000 residents. That would work out to 41 or 42 officers for the Town of Sandwich. Sandwich has 34. Unfortunately, the entire Cape doesn’t have any police departments that reach the recommended minimums.

Wack has previously requested to try to get six civilian dispatchers, who would then free up the six police officers who have to stay inside answering calls. Four of them would have gone on patrols, and two would have been added to the detective division.

That plan didn’t get through, and now a plan by Barnstable Sheriff James Cummings could provide a regional dispatch model. The town would still pay toward it, but the facility and personnel would be located elsewhere. It could greatly alter the comfort of residents to come in personally and report crimes, according to some. The pros and cons will be debated—but not here.

Sadly, there is currently ONE detective working investigations for the Town of Sandwich. There are technically two other detective-level personnel on staff—one is assigned to court duties and the other is focused exclusively on breaking up the drug trade in town. But, that still leaves just one detective handling all the other cases that pop up. That’s unbelievable! Now, on the other hand, Sandwich is not a crime-infested sinkhole. But, ONE detective?

Chief Wack told me, “We are making do with so little. Three cars are running each shift. The evening shift is so busy that they are unable to do any self-initiated activities. I’ve suggested a few plans to try to add one more car per shift. I’ve requested two additional detectives,” he added.

The Sandwich Police Department has certainly been busy. In 2009, there were 7,820 police services initiated. In 2013, that number more than doubled to 19,237.

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There has been no increase to the personnel in the department in those four years. The number of motor vehicle citations has increased in those same four years from 1,024 to 3,573 per year.

Chief Wack said that stops aren’t all about fines.

“Most of the stops involve a warning. Our officers are given full discretion on a case-by-case basis. Studies done by the International Chiefs of Police Association show crimes against property and vandalism are substantially reduced when the blue lights are flashing in an area.”

“The NTHSA (National Traffic Highway Safety Institute) says the only way to change behavior and reduce accidents is with a fine. I don’t believe that. We’re not state troopers in Connecticut. We’re looking to reduce fatalities, not take money out of residents’ pockets.”

Wack was involved heavily with the Connecticut State Police’s initiatives to reduce fatalities, and has taken it and used some of it here on the Cape. He’s also come out front and center to reduce illicit drugs sold in the town.

“The drugs fuel break-ins and other criminal activities,” Wack said. “We have pursued the drug sellers.”

They have also conducted unannounced searches inside the high school and its parking lots, with the cooperation of school officials. Last year, dogs were used to sniff out the school and its lots 10 to 15 times.

Wack added, “A couple of things were thrown out of windows. Most importantly, the administration tells us that these raids impact the potential of drugs being brought into the schools.”

Wack moved to Sandwich and loves the town and its people. And, as for transparency, this chief has been in the forefront of providing more information released to the press, and the public. That bodes well for the future.

What doesn’t bode so well is the police station on Route 6A.

For instance, there is no security there for the movement of prisoners. They come in the garage and are taken into an unsecured hallway, where the public is present for licenses. Secretaries and officers are in the halls. They are taken to a small booking room (which recently had a video monitor added to it.). Then, they go back out the public hallway to a cell. There are no kitchens in the station. Officers and staff go to their homes for lunch—not exactly a way to build community.

The police station was built in 1972 for nine employees. There are currently 35 there, 24/7. An 11-by-14-foot room is occupied by 21 employees. Men and women share a single locker room. A new police and fire station is desperately needed.

But, there is only so much money that can be borrowed, and only so much money residents are willing to pay for their property taxes.

Sandwich police officers go through 40 hours of mandatory training, and superior officers, commanders and field training officers also attend these unfunded seminars. Their hours, along with officers out for short-term and long-term injury and illnesses,must be covered through overtime.

“Some departments cover these things with overstaffed shifts. We can’t do that,” Wack said.

As for Fire Chief Carrico, he put it for 12 additional hires to reopen the currently closed East Sandwich Fire Station. But it was put on hold for lack of funding. He told me that station One is “falling apart.” He is, finally, going to get a mechanic that he needed.

But, the mechanic will also be a firefighter and EMT.

“We have to wear many hats in this department,” Chief Carrico told me.

Both chiefs have so many great ideas, and want to do so much for the community they serve. But, they are also greatly aware of the financial restraints put on them.

With the school department asking for a 4.5 percent increase in its budget (when the maximum the town can raise taxes is 2.5 percent), this calls for prudent trimming. 

Now we’re hearing that a PERMANENT tax increase may be on the table to help pay school expenses. In my opinion, a permanent increase is something that should be avoided at all costs.

As for the thought that good schools attract buyers, that can be true. Realtor Susan Brown of Century 21 Cape Sails in Sandwich said that, “The elderly are moving to Sandwich because they want to be near hospitals and the bridge. But, honestly, people do buy homes there because of the good schools. The Wing School closing could be a problem. Everyone wants that school. One of our brokers has a client that will only buy in Sandwich because of the schools. They have good schools. Forestdale, Oak Ridge and the high school are well regarded. But, we now have Sturgis and that hurts all the school systems because it’s rated so high. And, they also have School Choice. I know some Sandwich people who attend Barnstable schools.”

Realtor Scott Zaino of William Ravais Real Estate in Osterville has sold many homes in Sandwich. He says “the bedroom community is attractive. Taxes are higher, but you get more for your money. The location seems most important. The crime rate there is very low. That’s another attractive feature. It’s really a great town.”

Statistics say that in Sandwich the large majority of real estate purchasers do not have school-age children, and public safety, location, and our beautiful community are utmost in the minds of those buyers. Sure, we must support our schools to keep them strong. But before we spend precious borrowing on salaries, let’s look at our capital needs—like a police and fire department public safety station that can serve the town, and the men and women who live there around the clock, with equal effectiveness.

(Note: This week’s column was done offline because Comcast cable, TV and telephone were still not working days after the storm. It’s very difficult to write under primitive conditions. As a side note, kudos to NSTar, which reconnected the Town of Sandwich back to civilization quickly after the snowstorm last weekend.)

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Rumblings Around Town

TALK OF THE TOWN SPEAKERS SERIES: A continuing series, which is part of the Sandwich 375th Committee’s work, on Wednesday, February 26, at 7 PM at the Sandwich Glass Museum’s auditorium, author and columnist Jim Coogan will discuss “Cape Cod and the War of 1812.” Admission is free. The Sandwich Glass Museum is at 129 Main Street in Sandwich. For more information, call 508-789-6809.

UKULELE CONCERT: As another part of the extended celebration of Sandwich’s 375th, there’s going to be a ukulele concert Sunday, March 2, at town hall. It will be hosted by the Friends of the Sandwich Public Library. A large assortment of ukulele players will be featured, including Cape Cod Ukuladies, Cotuit Center for the Arts Ukulele Orchestra, Steve Gregory Household, Score’s Music Student All-Stars, and special guests! The emcee for the festivities will be Gregory, who is the owner of Score Music. The concert is FREE. Please RVSP, if you can, so they can try to plan the seating. RSVP through www.sandwichpubliclibrary,com.

Mark Snyder, who has written more than 1,880 articles in newspapers and magazines, and published three books, is the CEO of PMPNetwork.com, the Internet’s entertainment superstation. Have a story idea?
He can be reached by e-mail at snyderssandwich@aol.com, on Facebook (Snyder’s Stoughton), and on Twitter (MediaMan2009). Write him via snail mail at Box 639, East Sandwich. 

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