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Council questions police coverage in Greencastle

September 07, 2005|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - The Greencastle Borough Council on Tuesday night questioned the police department's acting chief about the practices of the department concerning coverage in the borough and the assisting of other agencies in Antrim Township.

Greencastle Borough Police Officer-in-Charge Craig Wagner explained what happens when an officer is called to assist other agencies such as the Pennsylvania State Police in Antrim Township.

Wagner gave as an example a tractor-trailer colliding with a car on Interstate 81, and the driver of the truck not being aware of the accident.

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The driver of the car might follow the truck to a truck stop and call 911, he said.

Borough police would then receive a call telling them "to find the truck and sit on the truck until the state police arrive. But we could be walking into a fight," Wagner said, if the driver of the car had decided to confront the truck driver. Sometimes the borough officers do not know what they're getting into, he said, "but usually we sit on the truck and the state does the investigating."

Councilman Harold Duffey said he had been told that borough officers do not know the nature of the call when they are asked to assist another agency.

Wagner replied that officers receive the original information given to 911, although sometimes that changes before they arrive on the scene.

Wagner said that borough services, including ambulance and constable calls, have assisted other agencies 70 times this year. The majority of the assists were for the state police, he added. He did not have figures for how many times the state police have assisted borough police.

"We assist them more than they assist us," he said, "but they assist us on a grander scale."

Councilman Gerald Pool asked about motorists driving away from a gas pump without paying.

"We're not the primary agency. We hold and detain until the state comes," Wagner said, adding that usually the driver crosses the state line into Maryland.

Council members expressed concern about times when there is no police presence in the borough. If no officer is on duty when a call comes in, the one who is scheduled for the next day is called at home, Wagner said.

State police will handle the call only if it is an active call such as an accident, a domestic dispute or an alarm.

Councilman Charles Eckstine said it concerns him that Greencastle police go out into the township when they cannot meet the needs of the borough.

"There was no police coverage in the borough the last two weekends," he said.

Pool said he finds it "appalling" that sometimes there are two officers together in a police car "during the lowest crime time of the day, but none on Saturday night. Belly up and tell them not to do that. Tell them to have a schedule and to work it."

Council President Barbara Bock said three candidates for police chief are scheduled to be interviewed today.

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