SALINEVILLE-When Andrew Straley took over as police chief in October 2013, the village was plagued by an outbreak of burglaries. The understaffed police department was losing officers to better-paying jobs that offered more hours, and the situation looked generally grim. Five months later, the village crime rate is quite a different story.
With no burglaries reported, March marks a historic low for crime in the village. In October, when Straley started the job, there were 14 burglaries recorded. November was even worse with 18. Then in December Salineville police, with the help of the county sheriff's department, were able to arrest several suspects linked to the burglaries.
December recorded a precipitous drop to only six burglaries. Straley notes that many of those involved received multi-year jail sentences for their role in multiple burglaries.
The number of burglaries climbed slightly in January to seven before dropping off completely to zero in February. Since October, the department has made a total of 44 arrests and seen a drop in all categories of crime.
Straley says an increase in manpower played a big part in bringing the crime rate down. Straley added two part-time officers in November, strengthening the ability of the department to provide police coverage for a greater portion of the day and increasing the number of patrols.
"We owe it (drop in crime) to higher police presence, said Straley. "Community policing is still the ultimate deterrent of crime."
In February, the village council voted to establish a police reserve program whereby officers volunteer a minimum of eight-hours per week in order to gain experience and keep their police commission. Three officers were added as reserves and many have exceeded expectations by volunteering two or three eight-hour shifts per week rather than the minimal requirement of one.
"You've got to build a good group, and that's what we have down here," said Straley. "It has a lot to do with their dedication and wanting to be here."
The improved safety of the village has been in no small part due to the people who live there, according to Straley.
Village residents made him feel welcome from his first day on the job and became his eyes and ears, he says. Some have even stepped up with donations to the department. Salineville Kiwanis donated a security system for the police station and volunteers installed it. Another donor who wished to remain anonymous purchased three dashboard cameras for the department's cruisers.
"It's been a blessing," said Straley.