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Chief outlines DeKalb policing vision

DeKALB – By the end of 2014, DeKalb Police Chief Gene Lowery hopes to have several new programs in place, as well as four more police officers, a K-9 unit and a mass-arrest vehicle.

Lowery outlined his goals in his “20/20: Vision for the Future” report, which details 20 different initiatives the DeKalb Police Department will undertake in the next 20 months.

The department has seen an increase in calls for service. Lowery is expecting the department to have handled more than 42,000 calls by the end of 2012, a 6 percent increase from last year. By comparison to other Illinois towns with large public universities in it, DeKalb has the highest call-to-officer ratio, Lowery said.

“The bottom line: In order to attempt to change from a reactive policing stance to a proactive stance, we need to relieve the call volume per officer,” Lowery said.

This isn’t the first time Lowery has called for hiring more police officers. In October, he asked the DeKalb City Council to allow him to hire more officers after the department handled 9.8 percent more incidents between Aug. 30 and Sept. 30 than the previous year.

Lowery was named chief in May, after former Chief Bill Feithen retired in February. Since then, a number of city officials and residents have praised Lowery for the work he has done.

Mayor Kris Povlsen supports hiring more officers. He said he thinks with the money the city has saved in recent years, it can afford the hires.

But Povlsen and two aldermen are winding down their stints on the City Council.
The makeup of the City Council will change after the April 9 consolidated elections.

Lowery said he is cognizant of the city’s political arena – it is the City Council that determines his budget – but he said he can’t make his choices based on politics.

“I have to make recommendations based on the best interests of the community and the best interests of the police department,” Lowery said.

Lowery wants to reinstate the department’s K-9 program.

The report lists the program as having $65,000 in startup costs, but Lowery said he will seek grant and community support.

“It’s clear there is a pressing need for it,” Lowery said, noting its usefulness in responding to drug crimes.

Lowery said the mass-arrest vehicle is needed in situations in which numerous arrests could occur, such as demonstrations or large gatherings.

The cost of the van is estimated at $53,000.

“It’s a vehicle of that sort that will allow us to detain and process an individual while keeping our officers on the street,” Lowery said.

But there are other programs Lowery wants to implement that do not have an overt price tag.

On Thursday, Lowery named officer Chad McNett the department’s first community relations/training officer. McNett will be the go-to officer for programs such as the Citizen Police Academy, Neighborhood Watch and the department’s “Not in our Community – Not on our Campus” awareness program.

“They’re not fluff programs,” Lowery said. “They’re programs that can have an impact and bring this community together.”

Lowery highlighted the “Community/Campus” program in particular. The department will work with student governments at Northern Illinois University, Kishwaukee College and DeKalb High School so they can make a stand against crime. The new programs could bring a new community attitude.

“It’s a community process, a community saying, ‘Hey, we’re not going to let this happen anymore,’ ” said Lowery.

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