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How many police officers are there in the New Hanover and Brunswick county areas? What is the ratio to residents?

Brian Freskos

Bald Head Island residents be advised: The Bald Head Island Department of Public Safety provides the highest ratio of full-time police officers to residents in both New Hanover and Brunswick counties.

The size of police forces of both counties and all 23 municipalities was the focus of a recent StarNews analysis, prompted by a reader’s question as to the ratio of officers to residents in both coastal counties.

While the data, gathered through telephone surveys, provides a glimpse into the size of each municipality’s police department, it’s important to note that the ratios are subject to seasonal variations, as well as other distorting factors.

Population data for this analysis was collected through 2009 U.S. Census estimates, but the figures only reflect respondents who consider themselves residents of a given locale.

Some communities, the beaches and islands especially, are known to balloon with tourists and seasonal residents during the summer months, strapping police departments with a heavier burden.

Also, the ratios only factored in the number of full-time police officers in each locale. Many departments supplement their forces with part-time officers, auxiliaries, volunteers and interns.

Bald Head Island’s Chief of Public Safety, Chip Munna, asserted that population variations should be taken into account when considering the municipality’s ratio of police officers. He said his force was stretched farther than the ratio implies.

“That’s strictly people that claim residency, that’s not the population,” Munna said of the census estimates. “We’re a tourist community just like all of the area beaches.”

Also to be considered is the number of civilian personnel in each department. Lucy Crockett, a spokeswoman for the Wilmington Police Department, said that while ratios have historically drawn significant consideration by officials, the figures have increasingly lost meaning as “civilianization” of key positions grows among modern police departments. She said civilians are now performing functions that were formerly the responsibility of sworn police officers but that don’t require powers of arrest, like crash investigation, for example.

“That means over time, the formula no longer has much meaning,” she said.

Ratios for full-time officer positions:

New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office: 295 deputy positions

Population: 195,085

Ratio: 661 to 1

Wilmington: 265 officer positions

Population: 101,350

Ratio: 382 to 1

Wrightsville Beach Police Department: 23 officer positions.

Population: 2,652

Ratio: 115 to 1

Carolina Beach Police Department: 37 officer positions.

Population: 5,881

Ratio: 159 to 1

Kure Beach Police Department: 10 officer positions.

Population: 2,515

Ratio: 252 to 1

Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office: 145 deputy positions.

Population: 107,062

Ratio: 738 to 1

Bald Head Island Department of Public Safety: 13 officer positions

Population: 294

Ratio: 23 to 1

Belville, Bolivia, Calabash, Carolina Shores, St. James and Sandy Creek: No police department. Patrolled by the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office.

Boiling Spring Lakes: 8 officer positions

Population: 4,784

Ratio: 598 to 1

Caswell Beach: 4 officer positions

Population: 472

Ratio: 118 to 1

Holden Beach: 9 officer positions

Population: 853

Ratio: 95 to 1

Leland Police Department: 31 officer positions

Population: 13,408

Ratio: 433 to 1

Navassa: 4 police officers

Population: 1,913

Ratio: 478 to 1

Northwest: 2 officer positions.

Population: 976

Ratio: 346 to 1

Oak Island: 24 officer positions

Population: 8,297

Ratio: 346 to 1

Ocean Isle Beach: 13 officer positions

Population: 530

Ratio: 41 to 1

Shallotte: 16 officer positions

Population: 2,210

Ratio: 138 to 1

Southport: 10 officer positions.

Population: 3,242

Ratio: 324 to 1

User-contributed question by:
Donna Bridges

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4 Responses to “ How many police officers are there in the New Hanover and Brunswick county areas? What is the ratio to residents?”

  1. On September 2, 2010 at 3:35 am Dan wrote:

    When you counted the residents for the New Hanover County SO ratio, does that include ALL of the county, or only the unincorporated areas? I ask because the SO does not police inside the city limits, that is the jurisdiction of the Wilmington Police Department. Not taking this into account skews your ratios…

  2. On September 2, 2010 at 11:44 am Jim Ware wrote:

    Cpl. Jerry Brewer of the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office and Sgt. April Stanley of the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office said both sheriff’s offices have jurisdiction across their respective counties, including the city limits, and each often assists municipal police departments.

  3. On December 29, 2010 at 11:34 pm Chief Tim Jayne wrote:

    The population for the Town of Leland is over 12,000 and that is the Sept. 2010 figure. Leland currently has 31 sworn officers.

    Please contact me at 371-1100 if you need further information.


    Tim Jayne
    Chief of Police
    Leland Police Department

  4. On January 31, 2011 at 6:33 pm Jim Ware wrote:

    The Leland statistics were updated Jan. 31, 2011, by Brian Freskos.

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