DPS unveils "Community Policing" program to House
To prevent the rise of crime in American Samoa, the Department of Public Safety has launched a “community policing” program, and the community at large is being urged to lend a helping hand.
This was revealed during a House Public Safety Committee last Thursday, where DPS made a presentation of the program, which is scheduled to start in Tualauta county — the most populous county — along with a part of Nu’uuli village area that borders areas of Tualauta county.
At the start of the hearing, Police Commissioner William Bill Haleck thanked the lawmakers who had provided input and encouraged him to “look into a community [policing] or a neighborhood watch program for our community” especially in the areas where there are no village ‘aumaga’ — untitled men — who are commonly used to patrol and watch villages.
Haleck reminded lawmakers that Tafuna is one of those villages with no ‘aumaga’ and there is a need for the entire community to work together to prevent rising crimes and social problems in American Samoa.
“So as a result of your encouragement, I asked my training officer, Commander Tauese Va’a Sunia to help me put together a program” with two DPS liaison officers, Levu Solaita and Paogofie Fiaigoa on board, assisting with the community [policing] program. "This is a great opportunity to put this program into action,” said Haleck, adding that the program will target the entire territory including Manu’a.
Tauese in his presentation pointed out that such a program is not successful without community participation, which would include businesses, villages and their leaders, as well as churches.
To start the program, he said, they approached and visited churches in Tualauta county. About two weeks ago they visited Kanana Fou because there are so many residents living in —and around — that area.
Tauese shared that the community policing philosophy is to bring the community together in “problem solving”. He explained the program will first concentrate on Tualauta because it's the most populous area of the territory and pointed out that any time there is a large concentration of people in an area there is also the opportunity for more problems.
In addition to Tualauta, he said there are also parts of Nu’uuli where there has been an increase in the number of residents. He further noted that many sections of Tafuna village contain parcels of privately owned land, and the owners of such properties — which were purchased from others — would probably object to having any community control or patrol of their privately owned properties.
He acknowledged there may be others who do not agreed with a community policing program.
“We need to promote working together in partnership and educating the community about the importance of this program,” he said. “The more done to educate the people, the more aware they will be, and the more cooperative they will be with this policing program.”
He stressed that the community’s support is needed as DPS cannot do it alone, due to the shortage of personnel, equipment and other resources.
For example, the targeted areas — Tualauta county and part of Nu’uuli — has some 40 churches, 252 businesses and about 50 government offices.
With a territory whose population is over 55,000 — with 20,858 in Tualauta county alone — there are only 148 police officers for the whole territory. In Nu’uuli village, there are some 5,000 residents.
“There are a lot of people living in the areas targeted for the start of the community policing program,” he stressed to lawmakers, adding the police commissioner believes these areas are ideal to start the program "because of the problems occurring there.”
At the Tafuna police substation, there are only 19 police officers working three-shifts, 24-hours a day with about six officers a shift. Comparing that to the population of Tualauta, that means one police officer for every 1,440 residents, he said.
Tauese says people involved in the program will be trained by DPS but this is a volunteer job, without compensation. He said the brochures and flyers for the program have already been printed and distributed to businesses and other community members, and Samoan translations of the flyers will be printed soon for distribution.