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New fire station, new police chief, new crime fighting tool focus of public safety confab

Sunnyside Councilman Craig Hicks was elected vice chair of the city’s subcommittee on public safety at last night’s meeting, the first of the year for the group. Jason Raines will serve as chair of the committee, which focuses on the fire and police departments.

Sunnyside Councilman Craig Hicks was elected vice chair of the city’s subcommittee on public safety at last night’s meeting, the first of the year for the group. Jason Raines will serve as chair of the committee, which focuses on the fire and police departments. Photo by Laura Gjovaag.

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The Sunnyside City Council subcommittee on public safety covered a lot of ground at yesterday’s meeting, from the search for a new police chief to the status of the construction on the fire station to a new tool for citizens to help provide police with information on crimes.

The search for a new police chief topped the agenda at Monday’s meeting, with new Director of Police Services Larry Dickerson giving an overview of what he has planned for the department during his six-month or less stay in the city. He told the committee that an outside agency will be auditing the evidence room next week and that he has also been reviewing the training regime of the department to make sure it is meeting mandatory standards.

Dickerson said he believes that police should be involved in the community and praised the city’s school resource officers and the National Night Out program.

City Manager Don Day said that the search for a new chief is proceeding and the city will put out an advertisement sometime next week if all goes well. Day agreed with Dickerson that the process should take between four and five months, depending on the pool of candidates that apply for the permanent police chief job.

Fire Chief Aaron Markham reported the work on the new fire station is about a month and a half behind schedule, but the contractors hope to make up some of the time. At the moment, the expected finish date on the entire project is June 12.

Markham said the work on the firehouse addition is mostly finished and the firefighting crew is waiting on a temporary occupancy permit so they can start moving items from the older section of the station to make way for the remodel.

Crime Analyst Courtney Percival also introduced the committee to an online program the city is using to document crime statistics in the city. The system, http://raidsonline.com, maps crimes and allows local residents to submit anonymous tips to police about any crime.

The system also has apps for smartphones and can be set up to give users alerts if a crime happens in their neighborhood. Percival said the data is uploaded from the police computer system each morning at 1 a.m. and includes the previous day’s reports.

The committee also discussed vacancies in the police and fire departments. The fire department has no open positions at the current time, but the police department needs to fill a commander position and two officer positions.

Day, too, addressed a rumor that HUD funding, which pays for one officer, will expire in March. He said that he had no paperwork on the situation and that everything is currently speculation. If the HUD funding is not renewed, he said it’s possible the officer currently being employed and paid with those federal monies could fill one of the two current vacancies in the department.

The issue of broken street lights was also brought up. Dickerson said he’s instructed commanders to have night patrols note when they see broken lights so it can be reported to the city’s public works department. Councilman Craig Hicks suggested creating an online form so people can report broken street lights from the city’s website.

Day said that he’s been walking around town before sunrise and after sunset and has noted some areas that need more light coverage.

“Crime likes the dark,” he said. He told the committee that he is assessing how to improve lighting in the city.

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