BUCKSPORT, Maine — The Bucksport Police Department is doing a pretty good job.
That’s the verdict from residents based on a recent survey designed to assess the department’s performance. The survey, conducted at the polls during the November election, asked voters to rate the department’s performance in a number of areas.
Of the 699 residents who responded to the survey, 94.7 percent said they were satisfied with the services they receive from the Police Department. That was the highest approval rating since the department began conducting the survey in 1996.
“It looks like people are very happy with the service they’re getting at this time,” said Sgt. Sean Geagan. “That’s important to us. We don’t get called out for a lot of good things. This tells us that people think that we’re not only doing our job, but that community relations are a strong point for us.”
It’s important to residents as well. Of those responding, 91.6 percent said community relations were important, very important or most important to them.
The survey has been conducted for the past 12 years and always among residents who turn out at the polls during a presidential election. It gives the department a consensus about what is important to town residents, Geagan said.
“It gives them a chance to tell us what they like about what we do and what we can do more or less of,” he said. “We’re pretty happy with the results, but there’s always room for improvement.”
Crime prevention programs 89 percent ranked as important; prompt response to nonemergency, 80.8 percent; maintaining local dispatch, 91.6 percent; participation in the underage drinking task force, 86.7 percent; and drug enforcement, 89.7 percent.
The community interest in maintaining local dispatch comes at an opportune time. The town is reviewing dispatch services to determine whether it could outsource one shift of that responsibility. The survey was not designed with the dispatch review in mind, Geagan said, but the committee likely will review the survey results as part of its discussions.
One area where Geagan said the department needs to concentrate its efforts is in traffic enforcement. About 85 percent of responders said that traffic enforcement was high on their list of importance for the department, but Geagan said it is getting harder to find time to do enforcement.
“Public safety is one of the primary things we’re doing,” he said. “But we’re getting busier on the criminal side of things, and those things have to be completed before we go out and do enforcement.”
Geagan said the department often seeks grants that provide funds to put a designated officer on traffic details.
“That’s one way we can put an officer out there and that’s all he does,” he said.
Traffic violations are a significant problem that also seems to be getting worse, he said, and dealing with traffic enforcement could keep an officer busy full time. It is unlikely that there will be an increase in the police staff to allow that to happen, given the current economic conditions.
Residents in the survey, however, said they would support an increase in police department services and supported the town funding those services.