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Cary, N.C. – We had a chance to visit with Chief Patricia Bazemore this past week. I joked when I met her that “even though I have a clean record, I have to admit I’m a tad nervous.”
“Aw don’t be,” she said. She’s not the stereotypical police chief. Chief Bazemore is easygoing and charming. She talks about Cary Police Officers with a twinkle in her eye. At the same time she is clearly in control.
A Police Chief’s Bio
Chief Bazemore, born in Wake County’s Old Rex Hospital, attended Wake Tech’s Criminal Justice Program. Wake Tech was not yet a community college at that time. She wanted to work in processing and investigating crime scenes one day.
In 1986, Pat Bazemore came to Cary as a police officer working in an undercover drug operation. She was one of three officers to start the pilot program for Wake County’s D.A.R.E. program.
Four years into her career she was promoted to Sergeant and transferred back to patrol operations. Understanding the job at every rank is part of the process, so field jobs are often held in between promotions.
She was then promoted to Lieutenant and served as Division Commander for the Administrative Division, and this was followed by her promotion to Captain. She moved over to “patrol operations”, which she says was one of her “favorite jobs” because of the intense direct contact with officers and the community. It was “something different every day”.
Her first try at becoming Police Chief was not successful, but the second opportunity that arose led to her being chosen as Police Chief in January of 2008.
With our discussion of her career out of the way, Pat seemed almost relieved as I asked her to talk about the men and women in blue of Cary (OK, I started calling her “Pat” – and she didn’t stop me). She smiled and thought for a moment.
“Look, I firmly believe that what we have in Cary is like nowhere else. We have the best group of men and women possible. And we work hard to get the best people – the right officers, and in some cases, civilians - to come here and serve our community,” she told me.
She proudly told me about Seth Everett (K-9) and his retired dog “Axle” and Mike Lindley (who conducted the largest drug seizure in Cary history). Officer Everett and Detective Lindley were Officers of the Year for 2009.
Cary has 172 Officers today, 5 of whom are Captains. In 1986 there were 32 Officers. The CPD is building plans to add more police personnel to accommodate western Cary’s recent growth.
There are 138 Citizen volunteers that have gone through the Citizen Police Academy, a 12 week program for Cary resident involvement. She said proudly that “we have never had a problem with recruitment.”
Cary has approval for 3 canine units, a program which began in 2005. Officers get to choose their dog, and train and live with them as well. There is an animal control unit that is, as Chief Bazemore told me, “not just dog catching”. They deal with lost, injured and abandoned animals. I asked for some stories about animal control.
“Well I feel like I’ve seen it all. Our Emergency Communications Center received a call saying ‘a deer just crashed through our office building’s window’. We got a call from a resident on Cary Parkway, telling us ‘we have a raccoon in our house’. Really, whatever is important to the people of Cary is important to us. These stories sound funny, but someone has to help in these situations. That is our job.”
Who’s Your Police Captain?
Recently the force has moved to “GeoPolicing”. Teams are managed by Captains responsible for 3 specific regions. Pat made a point of testing me to see if I knew who my Captain was. I passed the test.
District 1 is run by Captain Don Hamilton and is mostly central and northern Cary, including most of downtown and toward the airport.
Captain Kenny Williams has District 2 – western Cary going from Weatherstone Elementary west into Chatham County.
District 3 is the responsibility of Captain Scott Davis and is comprised of southern and eastern Cary from Cary Elementary south to the West Lake area.
Pat told me about the Crime Alerts Program and the Hello Neighbor Program. I had not heard of Hello Neighbor before but the basic premise is to patrol areas and inform citizens when they are “open to possible criminal opportunities”, like leaving garage doors open. The CPD sends a letter to the home to suggest they remove that “opportunity”.
“To me, to have the safest community possible we must have an informed community. We make a point to reach out to the people of Cary not only to inform them of crimes, or post pictures of suspects, or suggest better safety, but to also get feedback from those who matter most to us – the people we serve,” Bazemore said.
The Chief also also pointed out that the our police force has a great relationship with Town administrators and officials “all the way up and down the ranks”.
What’s Important to You is Important to the CPD
There were 153,000 administrative calls that came into the police in 2009. Yes, that is more than one each year from every man, woman and child. There were over 59,000 9-1-1 calls from land lines and over 33,000 wireless calls to the emergency 9-1-1 number! Chief Bazemore said, “These calls range from the hilarious to the saddest stories you could imagine. Either way these calls are coming from people that need our help. We see folks often in the worst of times. It’s our job to respond quickly.”
The most common complaint call coming into the police? Traffic. The most common crime? Larceny/theft. “We once got several complaint calls about a misspelled road sign,” she told me without cracking a smile, “we responded to it.”
There were 16,550 traffic stops in 2009. Tickets were handed out in 10,511 of those incidents. I was told that ”safety is our goal, not giving out tickets. Giving tickets is at the discretion of the officer”.
A Safe Place
Cary is the 5th safest city (between population of 100,000 to 500,000) in the nation.
The CPD has recently spent time with the staff from the Irvine, California Police Department, currently ranked “the Safest City”, to find out how The Cary Police could adopt some of the programs and policies of Irvine.
“Our goal is to be number 1 EVERY year”, Chief Bazemore said.
She told me that a lot of people had predicted that crime would escalate as the economy deteriorated. In fact, 2009 was a much better year than 2008, in almost all areas. For violent crimes and theft (referred to as “Part 1 Crimes”), crime was down 14% year-to-year.
I was convinced that the people of Cary are in good hands.