Police complex

Officials break ground for a new regional police complex. Police Chief Gerald R. Simpson is in the center.

A crowd of about 50 or more looked on Wednesday morning as representatives of the Southern Chester County Regional Police broke ground on the force’s future headquarters.

Local politicians, emergency medical technicians, firefighters, and police officers were in the audience at New Garden Park at 8934 Gap Newport Pike. A drone buzzed in the overcast sky, recording the event as the rains mercifully held off for the duration.

Chief Gerald Simpson, who heads the regional force, said its members deserved a modern headquarters that would allow them to “serve the community at a very high level.”

Interviewed after the event, Simpson said the 11,000-square-foot headquarters included design features like fieldstone walls and a wooden trussed-beam entrance to reflect the county’s historic architecture. “That was important to us,” he said.

The headquarters, Simpson said, will include holding cells, interview rooms, a locker room, a secure garage for unloading prisoners technically known as a “sally port,” and a multipurpose conference room that will be available to the public. Construction would be complete in about a year, he said.

Simpson stressed that the building was designed as a comfortable, inviting place for area residents to interact with the force. “This is the community’s building,” he said. “It really is for the community.”

The headquarters, which has an estimated cost of $4.5 million to $5 million, was designed by Sean Goodrick of Tevebaugh Architecture.

The ceremony also included remarks by Randy Geouque, chair of the New Garden Township board of supervisors, and Stephen Allaband, a New Garden supervisor and chair of the Southern Chester County Regional Public Safety Commission.

The groundbreaking for the new headquarters comes not quite two years after the force itself was inaugurated in January of last year. It came about through the merger of the full-time New Garden Township Police Department and the West Grove Borough Police Department, then a part-time force.

New Garden began providing 24-hour local police coverage in the spring of 2013. In 2014, Simpson approached the township supervisors about looking into regional policing because the demand for service had kept rising. After several years of research and discussion, the New Garden and West Grove forces combined into the regional force that exists today.

According to the state Department of Community & Economic Development, the regional policing approach is growing in popularity among municipalities where revenues are not sufficient to fund a full range of police services. Currently, the department says, there are more than 35 regional police departments in the state that provide service to more than 125 municipalities.

Evidently the approach is working for New Garden and West Grove. According to a report released earlier this year, the regional force has seen lowered crime rates and lowered costs as well in its first year.

The report said serious crimes such as murder, aggravated assault, rape, burglary, robbery, arson, and motor vehicle theft were down 31 percent in 2017. Crimes such as forgery, embezzlement, vandalism, prostitution, simple assault, public drunkenness, and other relatively less serious offenses were down by 9.3 percent compared to 2016. DUI arrests were up 43.8 percent.

And the regional force ended up costing nearly 10 percent less than projected. New Garden township pays 80 percent of the force’s yearly budget, at $1.7 million, and West Grove contributes the rest, a total of $433,000 per year. Currently the force has 20 sworn officers, including the command staff, and two civilian employees.

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