By Donna Thornton/News Editor
City of Gadsden Police Chief John Crane, approaching his first anniversary on the job, sometimes jokes that it feels like it’s been five minutes – underwater.
However, when Crane speaks about coming back to his hometown to serve as the police department’s leader, he sounds like someone who’s happy to be here, and dedicated to seeing that the department meets the needs of the city’s residents and business people.
Crane spoke recently to a group of downtown Gadsden merchants about his first year on the job and about some of the plans for the city and the department. He told them that great focus is being placed now on school safety, which is of great importance. But while dealing with that, he said, the city cannot ignore downtown.
And Crane had questions for them, as he has before when he met with the group: Are they seeing officers in the downtown area? Do they come in their businesses to ensure everything is OK? Are businesses experiencing any problems the department can help to address?
One of the ways the police department will strive to help merchants, Crane said, is by cracking down on unlicensed sales people who come into the city “with a big truck” and setting up a display to sell shoes.
“We’re going to be going to those people to ask ‘where’s your business license?’” Crane said.
Crane noted that recently someone took a full-page ad in a newspaper and rented a room at a local hotel to buy gold. While he’d gotten a business license, the chief said, he was told that he needed to have a brick-and-mortar address and that he needed to be doing business by check to do business in Gadsden.
There are specific laws governing the sales of precious metals, he said that require making pictures and getting drivers license information.
Without enforcement of those laws, Crane said, operations like that one can become venues for stolen property to be sold, and the buyer to be out of state within days.
“If you hear of someone doing business who didn’t have to go through the same steps you did,” Crane told merchants at the meeting, “let me know.”
For the future, Crane said four recently hired officers will complete academy training in May and four more officers will be hired in July.
Crane also plans to have an officer manning the desk at the police department, to have someone “standing there to meet your needs.”
There are plans to move city court and the department’s patrol division to the old Weaver Technical school building.
At the present time, Crane said, the city holds court in the city council chambers, and people who come to city hall for other business have to find their way through the court crowd.
More room was needed for court, and for the patrol division, Crane said, and locating these functions across the river should help development efforts in East Gadsden.