Woodstock police chief Clayton Keefe told the town board last week that he needed to have an officer conduct investigative work to deal with an uptick in crime and lighten the workload for the town’s only detective. He proposed having an officer do detective work during the regular night shift from 3 to 11 p.m. at a stipend equal to six percent of their salary, or $3000 for an officer making $50,000 per year.
“I think it would be greatly beneficial to the town,” said Keefe, who noted formerly part-time residents who spent weekdays in the city were now here full-time due to the Covid-19 pandemic. When those people call to report a crime, they may not get an immediate response if it is not an emergency and the detective is not on duty. Larger cases are still turned over to the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, he said.
“It’s important when a crime happens to investigate it as soon as possible instead of waiting maybe two days for a detective to come in,” said Keefe. “It’s really difficult for one person to answer calls and handle these calls on his own. This might in the long run actually save us some money by not having overtime for a full-time officer.”
Councilwoman Laura Ricci said the town needed to be cautious about additional funding, particularly since revenues and state aid were down because of the pandemic. “I love supporting chief Keefe because I have total respect for the department and great respect for how the chief runs the department,” Ricci said. “This is a year, however, where we’re worried about every penny.”
“I wouldn’t even be coming to the town to ask for this,” Keefe responded. “I understand the financial situation, but I feel to be fair to the community … and we do have more people in our town now. People are not going to go back to the city. A lot of second homes are being occupied full-time. I feel when they call for an incident, it should properly be looked at.”
Councilman Reggie Earls echoed Keefe’s thoughts. “I would think people would have a different expectation in town, that they wouldn’t have to wait for two days until someone can come out and help them.”
Keefe provided more details about the formerly seasonal and part-time nature of many residents changing, justifying the need for more detective work. “In years prior, people used to go back to the city,” he said. “They’d be here Friday until Sunday afternoon. That’s not the case any more. If you drive the secondary roads, there’s a lot of traffic on the back roads. An enormous amount of traffic.”
Keefe suggested trying the suggested work schedule until January to see how it is accepted by the public. There are no additional hours. A full-time officer to be chosen by the chief among those interested will devote part of their time to detective work.
Supervisor Bill McKenna said he will review the budget to see if there’s room for the stipend.