On any given week, the Southern Pines Police Department responds to 600-700 service calls. Most are relatively minor in nature: a security alarm, a shoplifting complaint, or a hit-and-run accident involving property damage.
But each call, however routine, must be answered promptly. That often requires taking an officer away from another activity, such as a scheduled foot patrol or traffic enforcement.
“Southern Pines is growing and we need to be able to grow the department with it. I would like to see that done in manner that we are not trying to play catch-up,” said Police Chief Bob Temme.
“Traffic is our number-one complaint and most of those complaints are about speeding,” he added. “But we cannot have an omnipresence on the road because we keep getting pulled off to other incidents.”
In late January, Temme met with town leaders in advance of this year’s scheduled budget retreat to discuss options. As presented, Temme said he’d like to expand the force to include two additional officers dedicated to traffic patrol, a new supervisory position and an IT/equipment technician.
Given the size of the request, Town Manager Reagan Parsons said he wanted to give the Town Council some initial expense estimates early in the budget process “to see if this is viable.”
Currently the police department has 30 officers in the patrol division, eight in investigations, four administrators, plus several dispatchers and other civilian positions.
In 2017, the Town Council approved a two-cent tax increase that helped fund four new police officers for a specialized patrol/crime team. The additional revenue also provided the first debt payment toward the new fire substation on N.C. 22.
Temme said a civilian IT/equipment technician is a high priority because of the amount of non-network technology in use within the department. These devices include surveillance cameras in vehicles, roadside speed and emergency signs, departmental radios and other police-related technology inside their headquarters building on West Pennsylvania Avenue.
He anticipated a $55,000 annual budget impact, including salary, benefits and equipment.
The cost to employ two additional sworn law enforcement officers is considerably higher. Temme estimated it at $240,000, which includes salary, benefits, patrol vehicles and other equipment, including computers, weapons, and training.
The addition of a sergeant, in a new supervisory role, would allow the department to reorganize its leadership structure. That cost was anticipated at $138,000 including salary, benefits, training and equipment.
“This would give us someone we could dedicate to traffic, seven days a week. We would enforce in those areas where high accident-rates occur,” Temme said. “And it will give us more stability as the town grows.”
In a follow-up interview with The Pilot, he said the department regularly deploys a traffic speed sign to problem spots; however, the goal is not to issue citations.
“We would rather get voluntary compliance with the speed limit,” said Temme. “We give out a lot more warnings than tickets.”
One particularly challenging enforcement area is Midland Road. The divided historic highway traverses three different jurisdictions: Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Moore County. Temme said most of the speeding complaints stem from activity through the flatter, middle section, which is outside of Southern Pines’ enforcement territory.