Hortonville police chief delivers annual report
By John Faucher
Police Chief Michael Sullivan precented his annual report to the Hortonville Village Board during a recent committee of the whole meeting.
He said that the report is typically prepared for the board earlier in the summer. However, the department was busy filling several vacant positions during that time.
Sullivan said 2015 was marked with some significant changes, including the transition from the old location to the new Municipal Services Center at 531 North Nash St.
“As you can see the drug arrests have taken a huge jump,” said Sullivan. “There is a lot more drugs we’re dealing with than we should be. We’ve been taking a reactive approach, but are trying to adjust it to a proactive approach because of all these contacts.”
He also explained that his officers handled more than 59 drug citations. However, the major ones are not listed on the report because they are turned over to the Meg unit and are likely being worked as active cases.
“A big thing that we are seeing coming through right now is heroin,” said Sullivan.
In 2016 Hortonville added Narcan to their squad cars to help users who have overdosed.
He said the department is also seeing a high amount of prescription drug abuse, paraphernalia and possession of marijuana.
Sullivan said the OWI arrests were down from the average 12-16 per year. He believes this may be in part because some people are starting to catch on and not drive impaired while drinking alcohol.
“There were 10 OWI arrests in 2015 and five involved accidents,” said Sullivan. “Seven of the 10 were nearly three times over the legal limit. These are definitely ones that should not be on the streets.”
Sullivan said there are also stops where the amount consumed was much lower and officers call the subject a safe ride home.
Another possible factor in fewer OWI citations could be a changing culture, he said.
“Younger people are switching over to drugs because it’s harder for us to detect, unless we smell it or somebody tips us off,” said Sullivan. “The average arrests compared to alcohol is approximately four to one.”
Liaison officer added
At the request of the Hortonville Area School District, the police department added a half-time school resource officer in the fall of 2015 to assist at the two elementary and a middle school in Greenville.
Sullivan said the police department provides services for the second largest geographic school district in Wisconsin, with 4,380 students and staff during the school year.
Officer Ryan Geenen was hired to fill the new position, which is funded by the school district. Geenen spent much of the first semester becoming acclimated to the schools, students and staff.
“A large amount of time was spent in the lunchroom and recess being present being present for students,” Geenen said. “I also worked closely with students that were indentified first semester who would benefit from extra guidance and attention from a police officer and connected with multiple students because of this.”
Geenen and SRO officer Brian Bahr completed Traumatic Event Crisis Intervention Plan training and Youth Mental Health First Aid training in the fall of 2015.
While most of his time was spent in proactive contacts with students, Geenen did report he investigated 137 incidents in the three schools during the year.
Bahr reported he investigated 166 complaints at Hortonville High School, middle school and elementary school.
“It’s not all just reactive contact,” said Sullivan. “It’s a lot of proactive stuff. The kids know they can go to someone to get the help they need. They know the uniform is not just there for another negative contact.”
Call volume increases
Sullivan explained that in the village itself the department serves a population of 2,711 residents. The department has six full-time officers including himself for patrol and the 1.5 SRO officers.
The department also has one administrative assistant, three crossing guards and two-part time officers, one who also serves as a firearm instructor and one evidence technician.
The department responded to 2,343 calls in 2015, which accounts for more than a 23 percent increase over the past 10 years.
In addition, there were 235 contacts made for business/resident checks, crime prevention services and welfare checks.
Village President Traci Martens said, “We support all of the (departments’) efforts, not only just during enforcement time, but also just seeing the police presence and how it’s changed over the years in how it’s become more interactive with the kids groups and activities throughout the year.”
She added, “It’s not just this patrol car that goes through town, it’s actually involved in the day to day lives of the citizens.”
Officers issued 74 speeding tickets in 2015.
“Some of you may have heard people accusing us of ‘setting up speed traps’, Sullivan told the board. “We responded to more accidents than we issued speeding tickets.”
The department handled 91 accidents in 2015, and in other traffic related stops, issued 119 warnings.
Officers issued 147 citations for operating without a valid driver’s license, and operating after suspension or revocation.
Sullivan said the department’s grant seeking efforts in 2015 were successful.
“The department received four different grants totaling $9,456 and several reimbursements totaling $2,065,” he said. He also said instead of disposing of outdated or unusable equipment they been able to collect several thousand dollars by listing the items on Wisconsin Surplus.
The department also received funding to purchase two more AR-15 tactical weapons for the remaining two squad cars. The funding came in part from Fox Valley Firearms, a village board member and village employee.
In closing, Sullivan said the department would continue to be transparent in its policing actions and policies, and he thanked the employees for their work commitment to serving the public.
“I’m very proud of all my officers and administrative assistant especially with the strong work ethic they operate by. We are a team and that’s the way we have to keep working,” he said.