Since taking over as Hillsville’s Chief of Police 18 months ago, Greg Bolen says he’s been focused on cutting expenses and increasing services for the Town.
Among the highlights Chief Bolen lists include savings of nearly $300,000, a grant that paid for 13 new ballistic vests, and new services such as foot and bike patrols and business checks. In a list of accomplishments provided to The Carroll News, Bolen said he’s been blessed to achieve many things since taking over as Chief on Dec. 1, 2012.
“But to begin, I feel my most important accomplishment is restoring the trust in the Hillsville Police Department by the community and building a better relationship with the people we serve,” Bolen said. “I have had many citizens call, stop by, or tell me in passing how nice it is to see the police out walking the streets, going into businesses, and taking the time to stop and talk with them. By making a first priority the establishment of a better rapport with our citizens and to let them know that my officers and I work for them, I created the department motto, ‘We exist to serve the community.’ From day one, I have strived to instill this motto in my officers.”
Bolen said he takes great pride in the budget cuts he’s been able to make to save the town money.
“I inherited what I felt was a poorly managed 2012-2013 Department Budget and was still able to end the fiscal year over $72,000 under budget. This figure represents an approximate overall budget savings of 8 percent,” Bolen said. “I am currently on pace to end the 2013-2014 Fiscal Year over $80,000 under budget. This figure represents an approximate overall budget savings of 9 percent. During the course of two budget cycles, my overall budget savings is 17 percent, saving the Town of Hillsville over $152,000.”
In terms of overall budget spending from the 2012-2013 and the 2103-2014 department budgets, Bolen said he is currently on pace to spend more than $34,000 less, a 4 percent savings. Through careful planning and budget management, he said he was able to decrease the 2013-2014 department budget by 3 percent from the previous budget, a decrease of over $26,000, and his proposed 2014-2015 department budget by 9 percent, a decrease of almost $78,000.
“Over the course of two budget years, I am on pace to reduce my overall department budget by 12 percent. In dollar amounts, this means I am on pace to reduce my overall department budget by over $104,000,” Bolen said. “In terms of my department budget, I calculate that from December 2012 to May 2014 I have saved the Town of Hillsville over $290,000.”
Additionally, Bolen said he has cut the Hillsville Police Department’s overtime budget to minimal amounts. As of May 1, over 60 percent of the department’s overtime spending is directly attributed to officers working overtime for the Speed Enforcement Patrols provided through the grant HPD receives from the Department of Motor Vehicles, grant money available at no cost to the Town or its citizens.
“It would take a while for me to mention how much money I have saved, budget line-item by budget line-item, since becoming Chief of Police,” Bolen said. “But to summarize, I have cut costs or controlled spending in almost every line-item of my budget.”
During his tenure of Chief of Police, Bolen has successfully applied and received grant money for several items. Headlining the list is 13 new, custom-made ballistic vests for the department’s officers from the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office.
“This was a safety concern I had for the department, and was proud to help in securing these vests,” Bolen said. “This funding was at no cost to the Town or its citizens.”
Under Bolen’s leadership, HPD was successfully given funding by the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant to purchase three new shotguns, two new space saver gun racks, and 26 new Class B long sleeve uniform shirts (two per officer).
“All this was accomplished without raising my budget and cutting costs by negotiating with the vendor who gave the department an additional 25% off each garment,” Bolen said.
HPD also received money for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant that will be used, along with two vehicles sold at surplus, will be used to equip and purchase a new Four Wheel Drive police vehicle. Through a careful and competitive recruitment process, Bolen hired an office manager who helped stabilize the daily functions and activities for the police department, in addition to streamlining the office into a more efficient, cost-effective, and customer-friendly atmosphere. The hiring of Michael Henley is the single best thing I have done since being chief.
A Rural Development grant in the amount of $10,500, along with other funds, will be used to purchase a new HPD patrol car in the near future.
Under Bolen’s leadership, the Hillsville Police Department has made many changes from both an internal and external standpoint. Among those include improvements to the exterior of the HPD headquarters to give it more of a governmental look. Bolen accomplished that by cutting two diseased trees, installing a flag pole, taking the insignia from the department’s uniform patch to be placed on the outside of the building, and soon-to-be completed lettering on the outside wall of the building.
“I have been contacted by many town citizens complimenting the department’s professional appearance,” Bolen said.
One of the first things Bolen did was to design and develop a Facebook page for the police department. He has used it as an informational link between the community and the police department. It has also been used to aid in highway safety awareness initiatives.
“This page has also been instrumental in helping to solve some recent criminal cases, as well as aiding in the recovery of two missing persons,” Bolen said.
Bolen also custom designed the patch now worn by all HPD Officers on their Class A uniforms. An HPD vehicle was also donated to the Town Manager to keep Hillsville from having to purchase a separate vehicle. He also eliminated money already approved prior to his tenure as police chief to hire a new officer.
“I made this decision after my evaluation of the department, and could find no justifiable need for an extra officer,” Bolen said.
Bolen also was granted a business credit account with Staples for HPD which allows the department to receive free shipping and handling and 5 percent back in rewards for certain purchases. In total, HPD saves an average of 20-40 percent on office supply purchases, with some savings as high as 60 percent. Upgrades were also made to workstations and computers of officers at no cost to the Town or its citizens.
As Chief of Police, Bolen has instituted many new programs designed to increase the level of security and protection for the town’s citizens and businesses. Among those is a Senior Citizen Call-In/Check Program he started. In the program, Bolen or another officer will check on elderly citizens of the town to make sure they are okay. Family members can call in and have the department check on a loved one who lives in the town.
Foot patrols were also implemented to be conducted downtown and in high-call volume areas and busier sections such as near I-77. The foot patrols have decreased property theft and all other categories of crime, Bolen said.
The Chief also brought back the Bike Patrol for the first time in six years. Bolen said these patrols were very helpful at the 2013 Labor Day Flea Market as bike officers patrolled crowds and grounds more closely and were able to cut response times by more than half on property theft or rescue calls.
“We only had five property theft calls at last year’s event, and we caught four of those people,” Bolen said. “In prior years our theft calls were in the twenties.”
A Business Check Service was also created, Bolen said, intended to give piece of mind to the town’s business owners. In the program, Bolen and his officers walk around the entire business, checking doors and windows. Upon completion of the check, a business card is placed under the door detailing the time, date and officer who checked the business.
“This program has provided nothing but positive feedback, and I even had one business owner who was thinking of taking his business out of town say that because of this program it prompted him to stay,” Bolen said.
Bolen also implemented a new School Security Check Program where at least twice a week officers walk through the different schools in Town and become a more visible presence.
“With today’s current school tragedies, I felt this was a necessary part of our service,” he said. “We want the parents of this town and county to feel their child is safe while away from home.”
Other new programs include Spot Zone Patrols (to help with crime prevention and highway safety initiatives in trouble areas for traffic infractions and crashes) and a Bar Walk-Thru Program.
“Through this program we have noticed a major drop in our drunken driving cases. Officers walk through every bar in Town checking to see if there are any problems or problems beginning to escalate,” Bolen said. “Officers monitor the crowd to make sure the bartenders are cutting patrons off from drinking too much.”
Bolen said he inherited several problems when he became Chief of Police. He said it has taken him the better part of 18 months to get those things straight, aside from implementing new ideas and strategies.
“I inherited several officers who required remedial training in their basic job functions as well as officers not utilizing their training for the department. Along with a poorly managed budget, I streamlined an inefficient work schedule eliminating all unnecessary overtime hours for the department. This was a major accomplishment and saved the Town thousands of dollars,” Bolen said. “I take great pride in my accomplishments with the Hillsville Police Department, and I take my responsibilities with this Town very seriously. I have been a life-long resident of Hillsville, and this Town means more to me than just having a place to work. I chose to live here, raise a family here, and to serve my community here. This town is my living, breathing Norman Rockwell painting. I love this town, and I am proud to serve it.”