In the year James Pruetting has served as Gardner Chief of Police, several changes have been made including a bike patrol, online crime map and new police vehicles. A canine unit was also budgeted for in 2015 and will begin service this spring.
Pruetting, who began work in Gardner February, 2015, served 31 years at the Kansas City Police Department in various high level position.
Online crime map introduced
An online crime map was implemented in May, 2015, and can be accessed thru Gardner’s website at www.gardnerkansas.gov/crime map. The crime map allows citizens to see if criminal activity has occurred in their neighborhood. It also reveals the type of criminal activity and the time the crime happened.
“The response I’ve received from the public has been very positive,” Pruetting said. “They really like having easy access to the information and being able to see what crime is being reported in their neighborhood. The officers like having the information online so they can direct residents to the site when inquiries are made about what crime is occurring in the city.”
At this time, the district does not have a way of tracking the number of views.
The police department also introduced two new online notification forms citizens can complete to report unlawful behavior: a traffic complaint form and a suspected activity form.
Police officers utilize bike patrols
In June last year, officers were deployed on bicycles as a way to further community policing efforts. The bike unit consists of four riders who patrol different parts of the community during both daytime and nighttime hours.
“I am very pleased with what the bike program has accomplished to date,” Pruetting said. “Their mission is two-fold; to increase the level of community interaction by being more accessible to members of the community and to conduct patrol activities in public use areas that have no or limited access to vehicles, such as the parks, trails and greenway.
“The bike officers have had much success in both areas. They are always well-received by the public, whether in the neighborhoods or public use areas, as being on bikes makes it much easier to interact with people. The bikes also provide an excellent opportunity to connect with Gardner’s youth,” he said.
There has also been success on the patrol side of the equation, he said. “The bikes provide the means to get to places away from the public eye where much of the criminal activity in Gardner occurs. That capability has allowed us to take enforcement action and make arrests that we likely would not have made using traditional patrol methods.”
The bike program is still in place and officers will resume bike patrol activities as the weather allows. Pruetting said that depending on staffing and funding, the program may be expanded in the future.
Zeus, handler, name selected
The new K9 for Gardner’s police department has been selected and training has begun.
After several days of hard work with a number of other canines at the facilty a Belgian Malinois was selected, according to Sgt. Steve Benz, Gardner Police Department.
USD 231 middle school students had already selected a name for Gardner’s new police dog – Zeus.
“I solicited potential names from a variety of sources and chose five finalists for the students to choose from. And the winner is…ZEUS,” said Pruetting. “I’m told that the vote was not close, so no further narrowing of choices was necessary.
Zeus’ handler, Officer James Anderson, left for Texas Jan. 9 to begin four weeks of intense training with his new canine partner, said Benz.
Pruetting said he anticipates the K9 being in full service, following the required training and national certifications, by May of 2016.
About $17,000 was approved for the purchase of a K9 unit Dec. 7 by the Gardner City Council. About $12,500 was used to purchase a dog from Hill Country Dog Center in Texas. Monies came from the Law Enforcement Trust Fund, which contains monies seized by the Gardner Police Department.
“The Gardner Police Department’s K9 Program will be a great asset to the Gardner community,” Pruetting said. The K9 will be a dual purpose dog trained in both narcotics detection and patrol.
“The K9’s narcotics detection capabilities will greatly enhance our ability to locate illegal drugs and identify those involved in illegal drug activity in the community,” he continued. “Having those capabilities, along with the enforcement action taken against those involved, will also serve as an excellent deterrent to anyone considering possessing, buying or selling illegal drugs in the City of Gardner.”
In addition to building and area searches, tracking, evidence detection and officer protection the K9 will also be an ambassador to the community.
“The K9 will also be an ambassador for the police department and the community, as it will be utilized for demonstrations to engage our school children and others in the discussion of avoiding illegal drugs and community safety,” Pruetting said.