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Tuesday, 09 March 2021 22:41

REPORT: Felony arrests in Rockingham down in 2020

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Rockingham Police Chief Billy Kelly gives an overview of the department's annual report Tuesday to the City Council. Rockingham Police Chief Billy Kelly gives an overview of the department's annual report Tuesday to the City Council. William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — Police made almost half as many felony arrests in 2020 compared to the previous year, according to the department’s annual report.

Rockingham Police Chief Billy Kelly presented the report to the City Council Tuesday, noting that 297 arrests on 392 charges were made last year — down from 487 in 2019.

The department's arrests for major crimes included two for murder, three for robbery, 110 for assault and 95 for drug violations.

Drug arrests decreased from 265 the previous year and assaults were down from 272.

There were no arrests in the city limits last year for rape, gambling or arson. According to the report, the last arson arrest was in 2017 and there were three gambling arrests in 2016.

This was the first year since 2014 without a rape arrest. In 2018, there were eight.

Murder arrests had remained at one from 2017-19. So far this year, there have been three people charged in two homicides. A third — the first of the year — is still under investigation.

Detective Lt. George Gillenwater told the RO Tuesday night that investigators have “developed a number of leads … and are still working toward arrests.”

Police also made 312 arrests on 483 misdemeanor charges during the year.

The report states that the lower number of drug charges “is representative of reduced efforts by our narcotics division and patrol units due to Covid protocols that were put into place.”

According to the report, the department investigated one methamphetamine lab in the city limits and was involved with nine other incidents that involved possession or manufacturing of meth.

In October, Detective Keely Sutton was honored by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation for her investigation efforts.

The sole federal meth-related indictment for 2020 stemmed from an investigation initiated by RPD, according to the report.

Detectives with the Vice/Narcotics Division also made three arrests through its pharmaceutical narcotics diversion program and two ongoing investigations into “doctor shoppers,” the report states.

In participation with Operation Medicine Drop, the department also collected 123,750 dosage units of pharmaceuticals from both its drop box and drop-off events.

The Traffic Division investigated 415 reportable collisions — when the damage exceeds $1,000. Of those, 111 were personal injury collisions.

Police also issued 778 citations.


According to the report, the RPD responded to 17,320 calls in 2020 — fewer than in 2019, but more than in 2018 — for an average of 866 calls per officer.

Crime-related calls included: 1,648 burglary alarms; 1,465 for disturbance or nuisance; 1,352 suspicious or wanted people, vehicles or circumstances; and 1,190 for larceny.

Nearly half of those calls, 8,033, were non-criminal or public assistance related, including bank escorts, public utility problems and unlocking vehicles (more than 400).

“While all of these services are not traditional police matters, we feel that they are valuable to the community and will continue to provide them,” the report states.

Several of the department’s community events, including National Night Out and the Junior Police and Fire Academy, had to be curtailed due to COVID restrictions.

Those restrictions also led the department to alter its annual Shop with a Cop program.

With donations from Over the Rainbow Child Care, the family of late detective Donavan Young, and other residents, the department sent catalogs to 10 students at L.J. Bell Elementary.

Once Officer Jan Owens had their wish lists, she went shopping. 

Owens and Young’s children wrapped the presents before they were delivered, according to the report.


While the police department receives the largest chunk of the municipal budget from the general fund — $3.1 million in 2019 — it also receives money from other sources, so not all expenses have to be paid from the city coffers.

With Kelly serving as the district law enforcement liaison — which includes Richmond, Anson, Stanly, Hoke, Lee, Moore, Scotland, Montgomery Cumberland counties — the department receives about $20,000 per year from the Governor’s Highway Safety Program.

The funds from last fiscal year enabled the department to purchase five mobile data terminals for the Traffic and Patrol divisions.

The department was awarded a $17,820 grant from the Governor’s Crime Commission to supply all county schools, including Richmond Community College, with a Knox Box — “a small, wall-mounted safe that holds building keys for police, fire departments and emergency medical services to retrieve in emergency situations.”

Kelly said most of them have already been installed.

In January, the department was awarded a grant of nearly $24,000 to replace seven portable radios and accessories. 

According to the report, the department also received $10,674.46 from the N.C. Department of Revenue collected from taxes paid by defendants in drug cases.

The majority of the department’s Drug Fund comes from those taxes — 25% is kept by the state — and can only be used for drug elimination efforts.

Councilman John Hutchinson praised the department’s efforts in applying for grants.

“It’s things like that really help us keep your equipment up to date without having to use taxpayer money to do it,” Hutchinson said. “That effort really pays off and we appreciate that.”


When officers aren’t responding to calls and investigating crimes, they’re working toward bettering themselves for their chosen careers.

According to the report, officers logged 1,829 classroom hours of in-service training including baton certification, juvenile law and sensitivity, firearms training and how to deal with hazardous materials and blood-borne pathogens.

There are currently 20 officers who have obtained their Advanced Law Enforcement certificate, eight who have earned the Intermediate Law Enforcement certificate. 

In addition, seven hold a Criminal Investigator’s certificate and two have a Traffic Investigator’s certificate; four have completed Unmanned Aerial Flight School and one has completed the Tactical Training Certificate program.

One officer, the report states, is continuing post-high school education with assistance from a city policy that allows reimbursement for college credit.

Eight RPD officers hold an Associate degree and four have obtained a Bachelor’s degree. There are also three — Gillenwater, Detective Sgt. Ronnie Brigman and Josh Leviner (currently a reserve officer) who have Master’s degrees and one holds a doctorate.

Kelly said when Brigman came to the department, he didn’t have a degree, but was able to obtain his Associate, Bachelor’s and Master’s with city assistance.

Councilman Bennett Deane said the educational achievements were “very impressive.”


Last modified on Tuesday, 09 March 2021 22:49
William R. Toler

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