Located a fast seven miles from the frenetic pace of the Las Vegas Strip and a mile from the reflective calm of Lake Mead, sits Henderson, Nev. No desert mirage, this city, nationally known for its premiere master-planned residential communities and other attributes, was also recently named by the U.S. Census Bureau as the fastest growing large city in the nation. With a population of 184,491, according to 2000 statistics, Henderson is the second largest city in Nevada.
The Henderson Police Department, with Acting Chief Mike Mayberry at the helm, is doing all it can to rise to growth-spurt challenges that come its way. The department, formed in 1953, is made up of three main divisions: Patrol (special response team, traffic division, gang enforcement detail, bike patrol and animal control); Support (DARE, evidence, dispatch, records and training bureau); and Investigations (property crimes, financial crimes, crimes against persons, sex crimes, crime analysis, missing persons, intelligence, I.D., and the narcotics/vice unit).
The department is also involved with several interagency task forces, including the Criminal Apprehension Team (CAT), Drug Investigation Combined Enforcement (DICE) and Vehicle Investigation Project for Enforcement and Recovery (VIPER).
The H.P.D. currently furnishes its officers with a stable of nearly 102 patrol vehicles, including Chevy Tahoes, Ford Explorers, Chevy Caprices and Ford Crown Victorias. It also sports seven newly acquired Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
Weapons used by Henderson police officers include the Sig Sauer P229 .40 caliber and AR-15 chambered in .223, as well as numerous less-lethal weapons. In addition, the department, which soon expects to supply all of its officers with laptop computers, issued them digital cameras in late 1999, to better document domestic battery injuries.
With a history of strong community support, the H.P.D. today claims a 90 percent citizen approval rating. This due in no small part to the department's many community programs.
According to Det. David Burns, several apartment complexes (both private and federally subsidized) in the city have been working with COP officers, incorporating the "One Strike and You're Out" policy into their leases. Burns told POLICE, "This policy states that if there is reported drug or gang activity at a particular apartment, the tenant is evicted."
Besides being instrumental in instituting a reverse 911 program, other unique programs in which H.P.D. officers are involved include the annual Shop With a Cop, National Night Out, a Citizen's Academy, DARE, Neighborhood Watch and work with youths interested in police careers, through Explorer Post #437.
According to Burns, the department also enjoys a mutual aid agreement with all local law enforcement agencies, including the Boulder City Police, North Las Vegas Police, and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Departments as well as the Nevada Highway Patrol.
Of the department's strengths, Burns said, "We have a very young department, with a majority of our sworn officers having less than six years on duty. This keeps our attrition rate very low." He added that a forward-thinking city government and healthy salaries for officers add to the positive outlook.
But every police agency faces challenges and, although crime rates for the area are reportedly falling, perhaps the greatest one for this department is keeping up with population growth. For the future, the H.P.D. is hoping to hire more officers, planning construction of a new training facility, will possibly develop a K-9 division, and has applied for CALEA accreditation status as it continues on-going efforts to meet the needs of the new century.