Police department’s community focus lands Leland on ‘Safest Places to Live’ list

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Council for Home Safety and Security has announced its annual Safest Cities in North Carolina Report for 2017. Leland and Carolina Beach made the Tar Heel State’s Top 50 list, while Pinehurst, Waxhaw, Holly Springs, Havelock and Stallings highlight the top five.

North Carolina is the ninth-most populated state in the union. The state boasts nine cities with a population over 100,000. While the growing town of Leland is still far from cracking the state’s most populous, it was ranked No. 14 in the safest cities report. Carolina Beach came in at No. 43. 

Located just across the Cape Fear River from Wilmington, in northern Brunswick County, Leland is among the fastest growing areas in the state.

Leland Police Department. File photo.
Leland Police Department. (File photo)

“It’s been a collaborative effort between our men and women working at the Police Department and having the best citizens in the world,” Leland Police Chief Mike James said. “We don’t have a lot of serious issues and it speaks of the character to the town and those who live here.”

Not too long ago, the town’s police department was in the news due to investigations by the State Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Department of Justice. It led to former Chief Timothy Jayne’s dismissal as part of what the town called a reorganization.

Upon James’ arrival in November 2012, the department implemented a number of new initiatives to revitalize its reputation. A “community-policing” officer was put in place to act as a liaison with civic groups and citizens. The department also added L-3 camera systems in all Leland police vehicles—a recording system that tracks audio and video on each car and allows the department to view the recording or make copies, if needed. These changes were made almost immediately after James took over.

“Before I came here there was a lot of bad press,” said James. “And what I have found (in) putting a new team in place (is) we want to be a community-oriented police department. In the five years I’ve been here, it makes me proud to able to set the precedent, get out of the way and let our good men and women do their job.”

The council combined data from the most recent FBI Crime Reports, population data, and its own research to create its rankings. The council advocates for safe communities and home safety with a strong focus on community involvement.

Since Chief Mike James has took over in Leland, the police department has made an effort to get more involved with the public.
Since Chief Mike James has took over in Leland, the police department has made an effort to get more involved with the public.

“Our goal is to be able to stay on the list,” James said. “It’s our duty to provide a good service to our citizens to make sure Leland is a safe place to live and work.”

In the report, “cities” were referred to as populations of 5,000 and over. They were ranked-based on the number of reported violent crimes (aggravated assault, murder, rape, and robbery) and property crimes (burglary, arson, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft) per 100,000 people. These variables were then weighted, with violent crimes accounting for 70 percent of the total (due to their severity) and property crimes accounting for 30 percent.

Preliminary FBI figures from January-June 2016 indicate law enforcement agencies throughout the nation showed an overall increase of 5.3 percent in the number of violent crimes for the first six months of 2016 when compared with figures reported for the same time in 2015.

During that same time, the overall crime rate in Leland was 40 percent lower than the national average. The number of total year-over-year crimes in Leland has decreased by 18 percent.

“While our call volume has gone up with the population growing in our town, it’s only natural, but serious, violent crimes are slightly down in Leland,” James said. “We added seven additional officers last year because of the volume in calls and looking at adding another maybe another two officers in this upcoming year’s budget.

“But, we are very conservative, want to protect our tax payer money. If we were to make a call to grow our department, we want the numbers to show it’s needed,” James said.