Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Like other Southern Nevada law enforcement agencies, the North Las Vegas Police Department was riding high five years ago.
Staffing was at its peak then, with the department boasting about 335 commissioned police officers and 850 total employees, but the ensuing recession in Southern Nevada forced the city to slash those staffing levels.
The department now employs about 430 people total, including 268 commissioned police officers. In other words, the department wasn’t immune to the effects of a down economy and the high foreclosure and unemployment rates that besieged Las Vegas’ northern neighbor.
Joseph Chronister, who was appointed North Las Vegas’ police chief in January 2011, recently sat down with the Sun to give his take on the department and crime as this year comes to a close. Here are excerpts from that interview:
On the overall quality of life in North Las Vegas …
It’s kind of difficult for me to kind of place a number on it for people. There’s no doubt that the citizens of North Las Vegas are experiencing a diminished service level from our department as a whole — purely for the reduction in resources that we’ve experienced over the last five-plus years. As a result of that, we don’t have the luxury and opportunity to have officers in the neighborhoods like we would absolutely like to.
On the proposed 'More Cops' sales tax increase for the county …
As a resident of Clark County, I, too, am impacted with any purchases that I make with the "More Cops" sales tax. I speak not only as a person from the law enforcement perspective but also as a citizen. … I want to make sure my family is protected. I want to make sure, as a law enforcement professional, we have all the resources that we can bring to bear to make sure people’s families are protected, too.
We know that even with the (.075) cent proposed, we believe here in our department we would be able to add an additional 15 to 20 police officers. We currently have 62 police officers that are funded by the existing "More Cops" monies we get. This would add additional police officers to that, plus stabilize that fund.
On current crime concerns in North Las Vegas …
We’ve seen an increase in burglaries in the city of North Las Vegas and are working diligently to try to address that. I think a lot of times burglary is a crime of opportunity. People leave garage doors open, purses on the seat of the front of the car, not locking cars.
On the future of the police department’s building …
Right now, I’m working with the mayor (on) a number of different options — whether we stay here or move. Obviously, if we were able to sell this building and the land we sit on, we definitely would be relocating. As far as where, we have got a number of options. There are some vacant buildings next to the old city hall that we’re looking at, as well as the second floor of the justice facility over (near) our detention center.
North Vista Hospital has shown some interest over the last decade of purchasing this land. We have had some discussions with the CEO of North Vista Hospital.
On the fate of the now-empty North Las Vegas jail …
I think our shared service with the city of Las Vegas is our best option for that service right now. Are my hopes that there’s a day the city of North Las Vegas has its own detention center again? Absolutely. It’s good for the city; it’s good for the residents of North Las Vegas. But I think we have to allow the economic situation we’re in somewhat dictate how we’re most effective and efficient in what we do.