Police chief credits officers, neighborhood watch

Havelock Police Chief David Magnusson believes crime prevention starts in each individual neighborhood.

“I don’t look at it as keeping all of Havelock safe. I look at it as keeping neighborhood A safe, keeping neighborhood B safe,” said Magnusson. “When you cut it down to bite-sized pieces, it’s a lot easier to manage. Ultimately they are all a part of Havelock, but if you look at protecting everything in Havelock, that sounds like a large order and you may lose sight of where crime is happening. So, you break it down into those bite-sized pieces. You have officers going into certain areas, talking to business owners. That’s so important.”

It’s a philosophy that apparently works. SafeWise, a home security and safety education website, ranked Havelock as the fifth safest city in North Carolina. Havelock made the list at No. 29 in 2015 and improved to No. 18 last year before making the jump to No. 5 this year.

The ranking is based on the latest FBI crime data available from 2015 that involve violent crime such as assaults, murders, rapes and robberies, and property crimes such as burglaries, larcenies and motor vehicle thefts. Havelock’s violent crime rate was .24 per 1,000 people, and the property crime rate was 10.54 per 1,000 people.

“We try to be as proactive as we can,” Magnusson said. “If you see a crime, and then you see a similar crime happening, you have to jump on it at that point and come up with some plans. That’s what we do. We stay on top of it.

“The officers are proactive. We do the foot patrols. We keep a good eye open and a good ear open to trends that may be starting up. That’s incredibly important in law enforcement. If you don’t catch on to something that’s going on, you’ll have a mini crime wave.”

Pinehurst ranked as the state’s safest city in the SafeWise survey. Nearby, Trent Woods was No. 4, while Newport ranked No. 33.

Magnusson said credit goes to the police officers.

“We’ve got good street cops,” he said. “They know their people. They know the bad guys. They know the good people. They know when things are a little bit askew. It gives us an edge.”

He also said neighborhood watch programs can make a big difference.

“They see something that doesn’t look right; they see a car they don’t know driving around the neighborhood, they let us know and we jump on it,” Magnusson said.

“We all here the adage about nosey neighbors, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s eyes and ears when people come and go at different times of the day. Get to know your neighbors, talk to them on the block. When you get home, keep a look out. If you get up in the middle of the night, keep a look out. You’ll have the whole area covered, and these criminals, they pick up on these things. They know.”

Magnusson points out that vehicle and home break-ins and larcenies are many times a product of criminals looking for ways to obtain money to purchase drugs.

“If you have 10 break-ins, for example, you’re not going to have 10 offenders,” he said. “You’re probably going to have one or two. So knowing the people in your community – the good people and the ones that cause trouble – goes a long way. You make one or two key arrests, and you can stymie that crime, at least on the short term.”

Magnusson, who was hired as Havelock’s police chief in 2014, said police officers would continue to keep up the pressure on criminals.

“Proactivity is so important,” he said. “When I got here, I said that we had to stop reacting. Let’s be out there every day and every night.

“That’s not to say tomorrow there’s not going to be a crime. There’s going to be crime. It’s important to have some strategies ready to go when you need them. … It’s staying on top of things and being conscientious about what is going on. It’s doing your homework as a cop and not mailing it in. We don’t rest on our laurels.”