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‘Red button’ project among highlights for Stonington police in 2013

STONINGTON — The “panic” button project at West Vine Street School, developed as a result of the tragedy at the Sandy Hook elementary school, has been cited as one of the successful endeavors of the police department in the past year.

The “red button” pilot project eliminates the need for school officials to call 911 during an emergency by simply allowing authorities to press a button summoning necessary rescue personnel to the scene within minutes.

The buttons are located throughout the school. Private schools St. Michael and Pine Point are also using the system this year. Costs range from about $30,000 to $88,000, depending on the type of work that needed to be done to install the system.

Police and school officials hope to broaden its use to all five schools in the district. Capt. Jerry Desmond said the department expects to have a continued presence in the schools.

Stonington Police Chief J. Darren Stewart, in his annual report, noted several other highlights of 2013: obtaining a grant for purchasing a new police boat at a cost of $375,000 and continued work on the sale of the old boat, which had been donated to the town; having a community alert program in place; the implementation of a license plate reader program; assigning an officer to the state’s attorney’s cold case squad; K-9 team transition to a new handler; and continuing to complete training for personnel as required by the police academy.

The department’s 36 officers, including the chief and captain, tallied 542 criminal arrests, and investigated 2,000 criminal incidents and 661 motor vehicle accidents in 2013.

Motor vehicle summonses issued for various violations totaled 854, with 67 arrests made for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

The department responded to 11,183 miscellaneous calls, of which 1,900 were medical and 932 were security alarms. Motor vehicle stops totaled 1,483.

Among Stewart’s objectives for this year include continued training for critical incident issues including active shooting scenarios; assigning an additional officer to the detective division for a cold case unit; continued upgrade of dispatching services as needed; and continued proactive activity in motor vehicle enforcement.

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