JCPD adds mobile substation

By Abby Morris

Star Staff

   JOHNSON CITY - The idea of taking crime fighting to the streets has a whole new meaning now in Johnson City thanks to the latest addition to the police force.
   The Johnson City Police Department recently acquired a new vehicle, a mobile police substation which will be used to target specific problems.
   "In fighting crime today, we've found that crime is very mobile and it becomes difficult for us," said JCPD Chief Ron Street. "Having a mobile police substation will allow us to be mobile and move to where the crime is."
   According to Street, the mobile substation will be deployed to areas that are suffering high instances of crime such as drugs, break-ins, reckless driving or other offenses. While stationed there, the officers with the unit will be able to speak to area residents and find out what problems are plaguing that particular community and who is causing them.
   "The vehicle is designed to bring the citizens of the neighborhood in," Street said. "That's good intelligence for us."
   According to Street, the back of the mobile substation can serve as a meeting room that holds up to 16 people. "We will be able to go in and host small community meetings with people to find out what the problems are," he said.
   Getting intelligence information from the community will be the key element to making the mobile substation and the idea of community policing successful. "Once we get that intelligence information, we can then target those individuals, residences or businesses and make sure the criminal activity is curtailed," Street said.
   The concept of community policing is important in helping to fight crime in communities that have high crime rates, according to Street.
   "Community policing is where we take policing into the communities to break down some of the walls," he said, adding that by the officers working in the community and getting to know the people who live there, it helps to increase the trust factor between residents and officers.
   At first, there will be two officers assigned to the mobile substation. "We're in the process of selecting the officers and assigning them to the mobile substation," Street said. "Once we have the officers selected, (the unit) will go into service."
   The program is set up so that "when the vehicle rolls, the officers go with it," according to Street.
   The police department purchased the vehicle from the Johnson City School System for $4,000, Street said, adding that the monies used to purchase it came from the drug fund, money that has come from past drug convictions.
   "Actually, the money we obtained from past drug convictions will help us in our future efforts against drugs," Street said, as he laughed. "I guess you could say the drug dealers bought it for us."
   The mobile substation is equipped with surveillance equipment and can be used to observe residences or businesses that have been reported as having criminal activity. "The criminal element will get to know their community policing officer because we're going to be right there in front of their house or apartment or business," Street said. "We know that the mere presence of a police officer often deters criminal activity."