The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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December 12, 2012

Spa City plagued by car break-ins

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — The Spa City’s ever-dwindling police force is frustrated by a flurry of car break-ins, according to Police Chief William Wallcoen.

Responding to concerns voiced by Drewry Avenue resident Delores Swann Hill during Monday evening’s city council meeting, Wallcoen noted that on Sunday evening alone, there were five reported vehicle break-ins in residential areas of town.

Wallcoen added that investigations revealed that three of those five vehicles were unlocked at the time they were looted.

The chief’s monthly report to council shows six open investigations, including three breaking and entering cases.

The report also revealed that while the White Sulphur Police Department operated with five officers in November, that number has since dropped to four.

Hill told Wallcoen she realizes that those few officers are already struggling to cover the entire town, but she believes patrols in residential neighborhoods need to be stepped up in light of these escalating property crimes.

“We can’t be everywhere at once, with one officer patrolling the streets,” Wallcoen acknowledged.

He promised Hill that officers will redouble their efforts to keep an eye on her neighborhood, adding that they are using every resource available to nab the perpetrators of the break-ins.

“We’ll catch them if we can,” Wallcoen said.

Thus far, the items stolen from cars include loose change, CDs, wallets and checkbooks, the chief reported.

Two other residents inquired about the police officers’ promised raises, which were to be financed through a police fee hike that has already gone into effect, noting better pay might help the city slow the PD’s turnover rate.

According to City Recorder Peggy Bland, before the money collected can be put to that use, the state auditor will have to approve a budget revision for the city. The revision has not yet been submitted, Bland said.

Council approved the $1 police fee increase in June, with the proceeds earmarked for equipment purchases and what was described then as “modest” pay increases for officers. The fee is now $6 per month for residential properties and $7 for businesses.

At the time the fee hike gained approval, the city of 2,500 boasted a police force of six officers.

— E-mail: talvey@register-herald.com

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