Members of the Idaho Falls Police Department’s leadership met with community members Thursday evening to explain their vision and priorities for the department’s future.
Chief Bryce Johnson, who has led the department for nearly two years, said he wanted to tell the community about the crimes that may go under the radar.
“We have real, serious problems to take care of, even in Idaho Falls,” Johnson said.
The chief began by talking about community policing, a term that typically refers to efforts by police to connect with locals on a personal level. The idea is to make community members more comfortable interacting with law enforcement and asking for help.
Patrol Captain Royce Clements discussed gang activity in Idaho Falls. The police department has a team that interacts with gangs to prevent violence. Clements said Idaho Falls has less gang activity than major cities, but there has been an increase.
In October the police department estimated there were just under 600 gang members in the city. Juan Santos-Quintero, an Idaho Falls resident who posted about his gang activity on Facebook, was arrested last year after he committed multiple robberies and shooting a Bingham County deputy.
Clements also wants to reinstitute the department’s neighborhood patrol officer program that placed officers in specific neighborhoods, particularly those with higher crime rates.
The department also plans to invest more resources into the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and solving cold cases. The police have solved two cold cases in the past three months, arresting Kenneth Ryan Jones and Brian Leigh Dripps for the murders of Stephanie Eldredge and Angie Dodge, respectively.
The department also plans to work with other emergency response groups for crisis intervention teams, a group of officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians who specialize in responding to mental health and suicide incidents. According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, there were 195 suicides in Idaho Falls between 2013 and 2017.
The department will also be deploying motorcycle patrol units and the need for a new building, which the department hopes to build within the next four years.
Johnson told the group that community policing would also require efforts from the community to cooperate with law enforcement and let them know when something is amiss.
“The best way to reduce crime is for all the neighbors to know each other, for all the neighbors to look out for each other,” Johnson said.