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Gaston PD adds officer, makes other changes, to provide better police protection for growing town in

Gaston, SC (Paul Kirby) The Gaston Police Department has made some significant strides in 2017 that will help them provide the growing town with a better, increased level of local police protection for its residents, businesses, and visitors. According to Major Stephen Watkins, spokesman for the department, these changes were needed because the town has grown geographically and in its business and residential areas also.

Watkins said during a recent interview that the department has added an extra man and will now be able to have 7 day a week coverage. Although their staff has not reached the point where that will be 24/7 coverage, there will now be an officer on duty every day of the week. Over the past 7 years, Gaston has not typically had an officer working on Sundays. Watkins said with the new officer and schedule, hopefully they can cut down on some issues they are having when the officers were off in the past. Watkins also said that with new businesses coming to town and the department’s call volume increasing, they will be able to provide that coverage during peak times by doing some smart scheduling. The extra patrols will be focused on the businesses and problem areas around the town.

In the past, Gaston officers often had to work alone. When they responded to a crime in progress, got into a pursuit, or had to get physical with a suspect resisting, they were at the mercy of available backup from surrounding towns or the county. With the new officer and schedule, some patrols will now overlap. This is expected to greatly improve officer safety. Watkins also pointed out that the new 7-day schedule will allow more reports to be written by Gaston officers when a call comes from inside the town. Hopefully, this will cut down on the county taking a lot of calls and reports in the municipality, freeing up some deputies in the busy South Region as well.

Gaston has also added a K-9 officer this year. She is a bloodhound named Bella. She is just completing her certification, which should be a huge help for the department. She will be certified as a tracking dog, so they will be able to utilize her to find people fleeing from their officers much quicker. In the past, they have had to rely on dogs from either Lexington County or SLED when they needed to track. She will also be an asset when they are searching for missing persons, the mentally ill or elderly residents who may have walked away from their residences, or even missing children.

Watkins made it clear that as the town grows, its elected leadership has made it one of their top priorities to support public safety. Although no department ever gets everything on their wish list, the mayor and the town’s council have been supportive of the police and their efforts to be well equipped and ready to respond when people don’t follow the laws. This allows the majority of the town’s residents, those good, hardworking, law-abiding people, to enjoy living and playing in Gaston.

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