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Siloam Springs was a much safer place in 2017 thanks to the efforts of the Siloam Springs Police Department.

That was the message police chief Jim Wilmeth delivered to the city's board of directors during its Jan. 2 meeting. He cited training and year-over-year statistical comparisons to back up the statement. Siloam Springs police officers logged 7,000 cumulative hours of training, including several completing advanced FBI courses.

"That increase in training and that dedication officers have of performing their tasks and performing them well is paying off for the safety of the city," Wilmeth said. "All in all, your department is performing very, very well and I expect that in the following years you'll be able to see that same type of performance."

Compared to the previous year, 2017 saw decreases in the number of total offenses people were charged with and a seven percent decrease in the amount of cases and reports of incidents. At the same time, there was an increase in the number of cases that were closed by an arrest and an increase in the overall number of arrests. Cases solved jumped from 63 percent in 2016 to 77 percent in 2017. The Criminal Investigative Detachment's number of cases solved also increased from 76 to 80 percent.

"What it means is the officers and the investigators, the detectives for the department, are more effective," Wilmeth said. "Their training is coming out. They are solving more cases. Those cases they are responding to are not ending up being closed or resolved without a solution or an arrest being made. There is a suspect that is being identified and an arrest is being made."

In addition, an increase in the number of traffic citations and warnings issued and a 42 percent increase in the number of DWI arrests has resulted in a decrease in automobile accidents. The number of traffic stops increased 148 percent, from 3,456 in 2016 to 7,564 in 2017.

"You're seeing an increase in citations, which is correlating to decrease in accidents in town, a significant one," Wilmeth said.

Wilmeth also said "the department is very healthy" with an employee retention rate "higher than its ever been." He also said his officers informed him that the department is at 100 percent employment as far as officer positions filled for the first time in a decade. The only place the department is currently hiring is for dispatchers, he said.

The department became just the seventh in the state to achieve accreditation through the Arkansas Law Enforcement Accreditation Program, which is through the Arkansas Association of Police Chiefs. The Fayetteville Police Department is the only other department in Northwest Arkansas to achieve accreditation, which provides "high risk/critical incident policies" and "encourages ongoing professionalism through best practices and standards," according to the website.

Wilmeth also recognized several officers who won awards at the police department's annual banquet on Dec. 21.

The Good Conduct Award for officers who made it through three years "of performance at a set standard without receiving any type of correction or direct disciplinary action" was earned by Cpl. Joe Coody and officers DeAndra Strickland and Zach Ware.

Numerous other individuals were given the Humanitarian Award for their role in the case of Carol and Rosemarry Davidson, a mother and her toddler daughter who went missing in Nov. 12, 2016. Their bodies were found in the woods off Lookout Tower Road on Feb. 23, 2017. Carol Davidson's death was later ruled an accidental overdose of methamphetamine use and hypothermia and Rosemarry's death was likely due to starvation and hypothermia.

Officers Cory Jackson and Steven King and Cpl. Mike Efram each received a Life-Saving Award "where our officers, prior to the arrival of the fire department, was able to maintain that individual or bring them up and then hand them off to the fire department who was able to maintain them with much better skills than we have," Wilmeth said.

Commendation Awards were given to officers Zach Shrift and Frank Henry and to detective James McFerron. Sgt. Chase Fine, officer Strickland and public safety communicator Angie Scott received the Chief's Commendation Award, which Wimeth said was "rare."

"It doesn't come out very often," Wilmeth said. "It is awarded by the chief based on a singular event that was meritorious in its nature and had a marked effect on the overall mission of the police department, or the result of some type of service that was above and beyond what you would normally expect."

Five officers received promotions with Scott, Felisha Vaughn and Amanda Neely becoming PCS Supervisors while Scott Miller and Derek Spicer rose to the rank of captain. Miller and Spicer also successfully completed the FBI LEEDA Trilogy training in 2017.

Wilmeth pointed out that Captain Todd Brakeville has been invited to attend the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va.

"To put this into perspective, less than one-half of one percent of law enforcement officers in the world get invited to this course," Wilmeth said. "We are blessed to have two, including one attending now and one who is going to be attending and we have two other command officers waiting on their invite."

General News on 01/10/2018

Print Headline: Police chief: City safer in 2017

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