Reporting methods account for lower enforcement totals in 2015

By Catherine Gabe -

It might look on paper like, with just 7,623 calls for service this year, the Wellington police weren’t as busy in 2015 as previous years.

But a carefuly inspection of an annual breakdown of crimes provided by chief Tim Barfield reveals that’s not necessarily the case.

It’s true — 964 fewer service calls were recorded last year, according to his annual report given Monday to village council. But that’s because Barfield and company are rewriting the rules on how information is collected and crimes are classified in Wellington.

“The daily log where you log in every minute thing that happened, we did away with that,” Barfield said.

If, for instance, someone stopped by the police station asking for directions, that used to be documented as a “call for service.” The chief’s new record-keeping system more accurately reflects the actual calls for help by officers, he said.

Traffic offenses topped the list of calls with 1,349 reported in 2015. Next in line were animal complaints with 168, followed by 149 traffic crashes, 76 reports of theft, and 55 incidents of vandalism/criminal damaging.

There were 58 domestic disputes and 24 incidents of domestic violence reported — each was up by four from the previous year.

Police logged 21 assaults, a decline of eight from the previous year and nine burglaries, three fewer than in 2014. There were 10 reports of attempted suicide, down by six from 2014. Operating a vehicle while intoxicated numbers declined by 18 to a total of nine.

There were 45 fewer “tavern incidents” in 2015, for a total of eight reported. That’s because police don’t want to use the term much anymore.

“We’re doing away with the category of ‘tavern incidents’ in 2016 and we’re moving to report more realistically on the calls we’re on,” Barfield said.

The Dec. 28 stabbing at the Mosey Inn, where a man nearly died, was an example where the label “tavern incident” didn’t accurately reflect what happened, he said. “We’re looking at it in more realistic terms,” he said.

Police responded to the Main Street bar 59 times in 2015, but since they are phasing out of the category, the numbers are reflected in the report in other categories, such as assault or domestic violence.

Meanwhile, a new category — drugs — is going to be added to the reports. “We think it’s a problem,” he said. “We’re seeing it more and more. Sometimes we know intuitively like break-ins to cars and burglary to houses and we ask why that is happening… When you see three break-ins outside a funeral home when a funeral is going on, it’s probably not kids, it’s someone breaking into cars to support a habit. It’s a rising problem in the country, certainly in Ohio and Wellington, too.”

The new category, however, will lead to some duplication of numbers.

If, for instance, someone is stopped for speeding and marijuana or needles are found, the numbers could be recorded as both a traffic incident and in the drugs category.

“All of these are just numbers and it’s a way to have an idea of the kinds of things we’re dealing with,” Barfield said.

The chief is proud of the number of training hours recorded in 2015 — 1,426 total hours, up from just 30 in 2014. Training has been a priority for Barfield since he came aboard the WPD in late 2014.

“Training is one of the ways we make everyone better to identify, handle things, and respond to things,” he said.

Staff includes seven full-time officers, 10 part-time officers, and eight dispatchers. Trainings included use of force, pepper spray, and batons, along with recertification on use of tasers, empty hands training, and how to get along in the workplace.

In regard to fewer drunk-driving charges, Barfield said police will do more traininig on how to identify people who have been over-imbibing. “We will try to be a little more attentive to this,” he said. “But maybe people have also gotten a bit more responsible in town.”

Barfield said numbers only tell part of the story: “I don’t think this report accurately reflects everything we do here,” he said. “It’s been a busy and interesting year.”

Notable incidents included the Nick Vaughn case, which involves a teacher accused of an inappropriate relationship with a student; a shooting on Barker St.; a homicide on Peck Wadsworth Road; two cases of sexual battery; and the Mosey Inn stabbing.

“Those are some of the bigger cases this year,” said Barfield. “Not something we want to see in a small town, but nobody’s exempt, right?”

Catherine Gabe can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @ReporterGabe on Twitter.

By Catherine Gabe