by Lisa Tome
About two dozen members of the Rising Sun Lions Club got up close and personal with Police Chief Chip Peterson on Thursday night, February 19.
Before taking to the podium, Chief Peterson explained why he was there. "It is extremely important to keep a dialogue with the people you serve. What better than with people who serve also," said Peterson.
Lion George Klusak introduced the chief by outlining his career accomplishments. Before coming to Rising Sun where he has served for seven years, Peterson was a Maryland State Trooper for nearly 23 years. Within the community, he is a football and basketball coach and also serves as president of Perryville Junior Football.
Peterson told club members that he wants to make sure the citizens of Rising Sun can "walk the streets and enjoy their lives without fearing for their safety."
He explained that he grew up in Baltimore City in a neighborhood which "was not the best." That and a neighbor who became a state trooper gave him the desire to serve. "I grew up with the urge to protect and serve, to help people," he said. He said his goals for Rising Sun are to "make it a better place to live and businesses to thrive."
The seven-man RSPD force currently serves 2,800 citizens. He said mostly, the town has 24 hour, seven day a week coverage.
He said that Cecil Sheriff's Office and Maryland State Police assist. He also said the officers are exclusively responsible for the Town but will help in other areas if called to help. He said a goal of the department is to improve the quality of life for the town and the county.
He addressed the drug problem.
"The heroin epidemic is a major battle. It's not possible to arrest our way out of it. We need to partner with other agencies to make it happen. The county lacks resources when it comes to treatment from addiction," he said.
"Law enforcement can't fight the battle alone," he said. Peterson also said he focuses on youth. He spends time with troubled students at High Roads School (former Providence School).
He provided statistics. He said that in 2012-2013, there was a 52 percent reduction in reported crimes in Rising Sun. There was also a 41 precent increase in case closures during this same span. "We are arresting the right people," he said. The department answers 5,000-6,000 calls per year. Many of those are as a result of the officers being proactive. He also said officers have a good network within the community and can get information when needed.
Lions members were permitted to ask questions. Bud McFadden said he commends local law enforcement.
Bill Fossett, a retired state trooper, asked questions about the judicial system. "We do our job. It's up to the State's Attorney and the judges to do theirs," said Peterson. Fossett also said that victims have to go through a lot of red tape to see a criminal get prosecuted.
"There's a lot of work that needs to go into our judicial system...how much does the state and federal government want to spend taking care of these people (criminals)? They get less time and end up in a county facility," he said. "We've got to make it work the best we can."
Lion Barry Cameron asked "How can we help?". "If you see something, say something," said Peterson.
Klusak asked if a lot of crime in the town is due to people from other areas coming to town. "Yes. People they they can get over on the town. We may be lower and slower but we're not stupid," Peterson said. He also said the department works closely with police in Pa., Delaware, and Harford County.