Police Chief Briefs Chamber On New HQ, Sharing Resources
Standing in front of computerized drawings and architectural floor plans for the new police headquarters, Newtown Police Chief James Viadero chatted about his department to about two dozen Newtown Chamber of Commerce members who attended the monthly networking breakfast at the C.H. Booth Library, November 19.
With about 24 hours left before a ceremonial groundbreaking event for the new facility, Chief Viadero was plainly excited and grateful as he expressed thanks to the community and Chamber members who supported the new project, which has been 20-plus years in the making.
Chief Viadero opened the talk reminding attendees that the local force patrols the second largest geographical community in the state with 45 sworn officers supported by 15 civilian staff members who he said answer — on average — about 30,000 calls for service each year.
“With fifty-nine square miles and 225 miles of roads, there’s a lot of things going on day-to-day that residents don’t see, but our officers do,” he said.
The chief immediately tied the efforts of the local police department to the success of local Chamber members, by helping attract new customers to the community because it is seen as such a safe place to shop and do business.
“Anybody who is moving to a new community is looking for three things. They’re looking for a great education system, amenities — things that contribute to having a great social life — and they’re looking for public safety,” Chief Viadero said. “And I think our police department is a cornerstone as to why people move into Newtown. In the past three years, we’ve been ranked among the top ten safest communities in Connecticut. And this past year, we were ranked number two — we’re very, very proud of that.”
Switching to the subject of the developing new police headquarters project, Chief Viadero shared an experience that solidified his support for the effort. He said as a former civilian police commissioner in town, he had a chance to walk through the existing headquarters at Town Hall South.
“As soon as I walked into that facility I said this is not what should be representative of the Town of Newtown,” he said. “It was woefully inadequate as a [facility] representing the community and its police department.”
So as he and other officials worked to educate the community on the department’s need for a new headquarters, Chief Viadero said he was pleased to witness the response.
“The community rallied around it and approved the design funding in 2017, and then overwhelmingly approved funds to give us a new police department,” he said.
The chief then reviewed the department’s numerous community engagement activities, from having a dedicated veteran officer as a liaison to the local seniors to hosting an Explorer Post and cadets program to interest young people in law enforcement, to holding a citizens police academy to help educate local adults about the variety of duties and responsibilities of officers, with hands-on participation in various activities.
“If you need a security assessment for your building to make it safer, we will come out and do that for local businesses,” he said. “We can also do training with employees of larger companies about handling aggressors or threats to your building.”
Chief Viadero said today, nearly 45 percent of calls coming in have to do with “some type of fraud.”
“Hacking into your computer system, fraudulent phone calls, or actually obtaining identities and accessing your accounts, we work with all the banks and financial institutions, but we also help spread the word to the community as well,” he said.
Among the most gratifying calls that reach the chief on a regular basis are the many residents and business people who reach out to say thank you to the officers who have come to their assistance.
“That’s what we want to be in this community,” Chief Viadero said.
On a question from The Newtown Bee about how the local department benefits from shared services and long-standing relationships with other agencies, Chief Viadero said while he was a supervisor in Bridgeport, he was able to develop contacts across myriad federal, state, and other local law enforcement agencies.
“In Newtown, we have a lot of engagement with other agencies,” he said. “We’re part of a SWAT unit — a regional emergency services team — we have a K-9 officer, and I’m happy to say we’ll be obtaining another one soon. We were able to get a lease from the town to use the firehouse behind Edmond Town Hall for the group that does training all the K-9 law enforcement [teams] in the state.”
He said the dozens of K-9 officers who come to train in Newtown twice a month from across the state are buying gas here, eating in local restaurants, and supporting local businesses. He said the department also has two drug recognition specialists who are available to assist other neighboring departments if necessary.
“We’ve got a pretty good drone program that we got a grant for — and twice we’ve put that in play,” he said. “Once to locate a missing person and another time to locate a wanted person — our drone found him hiding in the bushes.”
In closing, Chief Viadero said he is pleased to help train other departments on school safety and reviewed the multi-layered protections in place in local schools. And he reminded the chamber members about following the local department on social networks.