Sitting across the desk from Oxford Police Chief Joey East to conduct a Hottytoddy.com interview instills confidence. He has that effect on people. Now, after only seven months as chief, the longtime Oxford cop plans to lead his entire department to a closer, confidence-building presence with the whole community.
“We’re re-introducing ourselves to the public, and part of that effort is an open house we’re hosting here at the station on Molly Barr this Saturday (Oct. 5) from 11 a.m.-2 p.m,” explained Chief East. “I want our department to be even more community-involved, more accessible, more comfortable at interpersonal communication. We’re not just here to arrest people or give them a ticket. Our mission is to talk to people on the streets and in their neighborhood. Our officers take community policing seriously — we’re all about getting out there in our uniforms to gain the public trust. I want the citizens of Oxford to see our department as approachable, not scary.”
The direct-talking East adds that an approachable police force isn’t just good public relations — it’s solid law enforcement. “We’ve noted a spike in our neighborhood watch programs and our crime tips,” he said. “Here’s the bottom line — the community solves crime more than cops.”
Addressing another bottom line fact, Chief East says that cold beer sales and Sunday alcohol availability have, so far, had no statistical impact on crime or DUI statistics.
“We weren’t really expecting much impact — except for people not traveling out of town on Sundays to buy beer — but we’re gratified that people are using their heads and behaving responsibly,” the chief said. “We haven’t even noticed an uptick in open container violations.”
Safety, especially on the road, does remain a top OPD focus. “We have zero tolerance for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” Chief East said. “The recent deaths of two of our young Oxford High School students in a crash related to impaired driving tragically highlights the reason we must be constantly vigilant. We have two officers here on a grant from the state who work the DUI issue 12 hours a day.”
The chief adds there is no excuse in Oxford for getting in a vehicle drunk. “We’re not a typical small town,” he says. “We have public transportation — busses, cabs and caring people who know better that to let their loved ones risk their lives and the lives of others. We have thousands of young people in this community — and I have young people in my own family. I want them and everyone else to be safe.”
Chief East’s concern for public safety is why he has directed his officers to be on the lookout for speeders around town. “Speeding is a point of emphasis,” he said. “At this time of year we have an influx of people driving with school starting so we’ve amped up our monitoring. From time to time we get calls about people speeding as they cut through residential neighborhoods. We respond to those tips. In the last two weeks we’ve issued about 500 tickets. The purpose is to get people’s attention to slow down. If it takes a little shock to remind drivers to be safe and protect our citizens, especially children, it’s well worth the effort.”
Another awareness issue for area drivers and visitors, says Chief East, is observing reduced speed signs on ramps leading to highways like Highways 7, 6 and 30.
We can always do better when it comes to reducing crime and promoting safety, but overall Chief East is proud of his hometown’s commitment to an unparalleled quality of life.
“Our crime rate is stable as one of the lowest in the state and I credit that to a combination of great citizens and effective police work,” Chief East said with a smile. “We work closely with the Sheriff’s Office and University Police and the three entities work together as well as I’ve seen anywhere. It’s not uncommon for the DEA, FBI, Highway Patrol or Secret Service to collaborate here.”
But it’s his local police teams — detectives, the public housing unit and school resource officers — that get the veteran pumped up. “Oxford public housing has one of the lowest crime rates out there because our officers work hand-in-hand with the residents, establishing scout troops and running a haunted house at Halloween.”
Relationships and confidence. It’s what Joey East is all about.
— Andy Knef, Managing Editor HottyToddy.com
— You can email Andy at firstname.lastname@example.org