Cop calls down for fifth year

Call loads for Sweet Home police and fire services decreased in 2009, according to Sweet Home Police Department and Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District figures.

The Sweet Home Police Department had 7,758 calls in 2009, down from 8,441 in 2008 and 8,825 in 2007.

This continued a downward trend from a spike in the number of calls in 2005 when police responded to 9,547 calls. In 2006,

police responded to 9,002 calls, and in 2004, they responded to 8,854.

The rate of calls through 2009 was fairly consistent throughout the year, with periodic spikes and troughs fairly evenly distributed throughout the year, Police Chief Bob Burford said.

Sweet Home Police Department will have more analysis and detailed information about its 2009 call loads by the end of the month for its annual report. The fire district had 1,789 medical calls in 2009, down from 1,974 in 2008 and 1,917 in 2007. Fire calls were up from 213 in 2008 to 216 in 2009. The department had 290 fire calls in 2007.

Fire district call loads last peaked in 2006 with 2,001 medical calls and 390 fire calls. Medical calls have varied between 1,900 and 2,000 since 2004, when the department cracked the 1,900 mark for the first time.

Like 2008, the district experienced an unusual decrease in the number of medical calls later in the year, Fire Chief Mike Beaver said. The fire numbers were a little lower than typical. The fire department has consistently answered 250 to 325 fire calls per year.

In fall 2008, the department was on pace to its highest medical call load ever, Beaver said. In October, it was 150 calls ahead of the year before; but by the end of the year, it slowed down and finished behind 2006 numbers.

“In 2009, that slowdown carried over,” he said, and the department averaged three or four calls per day until the spring when it increased to about 6.5 calls per day. The department experienced a lull again right before the holidays, a time when call loads usually increase.

“I honestly believe the economy has to be a part of it,” Beaver said. Although medics would like to think people are healthier, many are out of work with no insurance.

For more than 20 years, the department has regularly experienced an increase in annual call loads of around 300 every three years. Officials have been at a loss to explain the irregularity.

This year would normally be the year call loads would spike, Beaver said, but he is anticipating call loads will continue about where they are unless something changes. That means the fire district will not change staffing this year.

“We’re going to maintain the level of staffing we’ve had the last four years,” Beaver said. “We have no plans to hire additional staff.”

The department’s equipment is in good shape, Beaver said. The department will replace one ambulance as part of its two-year rotation cycle. The department puts about 25,000 to 30,000 miles per year on each of its ambulances. It also has one piece of apparatus, a water tender, to purchase as part of its 2006 bond levy.