TEASER Police, Southern Pines

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.

(1) comment

Patricia Bryan

I see so much speeding, red light running, and other traffic violations it has me driving only when I absolutely have to. Aberdeen seems to have enough officers to patrol for speeders along Bethesda Road and Saunders Blvd (which is both Aberdeen and Southern Pines) as I see radar on both often. When Bethesda Road becomes Ft. Bragg Road, that is Southern Pines and people rarely drive 45 coming off the 4 way stop at Indiana Avenue - most often by the time they get to Elk Road they are up to 50+ mph. Also Bethesda Road between Indiana Avenue and Ft. Bragg Road is a cut through that is supposed to be 35mph - which is a laugh for anyone cutting through who doesn't live there. If I drive on Midland, it is always on the Southern Pines part of it, and I drive the speed limit (35mph) and people pass me at much higher speeds. Also using the Old Morganton Road cut through from May street to Indiana Avenue, people go way above the 30mph limit. I was passed one day by someone going so fast I couldn't even read the license plate, but he was going fast enough for me to slow down in case he crashed ahead of me. The stop lights at US 1 and Murray Hill Road have more people running red lights than anywhere I travel, and I travel that way the few times a week I go anywhere. My neighbor got hit coming off Saunders by someone running a red light. If I am the first car in line, I wait until after I've had a green light before going across any direction at that light, look both ways twice for traffic running the light, and have saved both myself and the person in back of me from being hit several times. I get beeped at, but unless road rage causes someone to get angry, it's safer for me and the vehicle behind me.

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