Joint police force would cost $1.75 mill in 1st year, study says

May 18, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Nineteen police officers covering 71 square miles would cost $1.75 million for the Borough of Greencastle and Antrim Township in a new department's first year, according to recommendations from a contracted police study.

The Borough of Greencastle, which already has a small police force, could actually save $38,405 in 2008 if the regional department would become active next year, the study reported.

Thirty people turned out Thursday for a presentation of the study from the Pennsylvania Governor's Center for Legal Government Services.

Elected officials from both the borough and township have been considering whether to develop a joint police department in the community traversed by Pa. 16, Interstate 81 and U.S. 11.

Pennsylvania State Police currently serves Antrim Township, where some residents have complained of lengthy wait times.

The Borough of Greencastle, with a population of 3,700, has in recent years experienced staffing woes with its force. Its mayor said the department operates with a chief, two full-time officers and three active part-time officers.


The study - which is supposed to be available for review at starting today - has recommendations for cost sharing.

The borough is responsible for 21.6 percent of the additional start-up costs, or $172,800, and the township is saddled with the remaining $627,200 for vehicles, uniforms and office equipment under the proposal. The $800,000 of start-up costs include $500,000 for a police station.

Residents at the meeting, many of whom were retired officers, encouraged the township to consider starting its own, autonomous department.

"If Antrim Township started a police department today, if they're doing it right, it's going to cost at least this much. It makes more than total sense to put these two departments together and improve the efficiency," said David W. Duffy, study consultant and chief of the Newberry Township Police Department in York, Pa.

Duffy, who celebrates his 20th anniversary in law enforcement today, recommended 19 sworn officers, so the department could have two people per shift 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

"You should not consider going less than that at all," Duffy said.

Pennsylvania's recommended standard of 1.8 officers per 1,000 residents would yield a force of 31 for the two municipalities.

Representatives of Antrim Township, with a population of 13,400, said that state police report "no discernible" crime in the township, but the study's presenters felt that could partially be how crime is reported by troopers.

Crime could spike 30 percent in the first year if a regional department is implemented, simply because officers are responding to incidents, like mailbox destruction, that previously have been ignored, according to Ron Stern from the Governor's Center for Legal Government Services.

"Unfortunately, (state police) cannot respond to ordinances in your township or borough. ... They're not doing any proactive enforcement. They're doing reactive enforcement," Stern said, explaining state police respond to crimes and don't regularly patrol.

Pennsylvania has more than 1,200 small police departments, which is more than any other state in the nation, and 34 regional departments, Duffy said.

Stern and Duffy recommended that elected officials form a committee to review the study line by line.

"I don't always say this: You have a very, very good opportunity here," Duffy said.

In 1998, the borough and township participated in a similar study that included more municipalities.

Know more in 30 seconds...

The issue: Elected officials from the greater Greencastle, Pa., area are considering whether to form a regional police department.

What happened: The matter was the subject of a study in 1998 and another released publicly Thursday. The study recommends a 19-member police force, with $800,000 in start-up costs and $1.75 million in first-year operations.

What's next: The study's authors recommended the township supervisors and borough council review the recommendations line by line, assessing the needs and desires of the community. Officials said they would consider whether to proceed at their May and June meetings.

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