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Pa. officials mull cost of increased police calls to new businesses

November 02, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- Increased police calls to businesses on Washington Township Boulevard prompted municipal officials to question Monday whether they can recoup costs spent for officers' time.

Specifically, the Washington Township Supervisors talked about whether they could charge a fee, possibly per call, to the businesses.

Solicitor John Lisko said he'd look into the matter, but said he suspects there are very limited options, if any.

Later, Washington Township Police Chief Barry Keller said he wouldn't want to deter people from calling for help because of an associated cost. Also, any fines handed down by the courts come into the township as revenue, he said.

"We knew the call volume would increase with those kinds of businesses," Keller said of the 2006 opening of Wal-Mart and other stores.

Police responded to the road and businesses 32 times in September and 317 times so far in 2009, records show.

The total for 2008 was 274 calls.

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That includes not only retail theft, but also things like traffic accidents and vandalism to parked cars, Keller said.

The discussion started when Supervisor Carroll Sturm asked about an incident last weekend. Keller explained that an off-duty Frederick County, Md., sheriff's deputy helped to detain a Wal-Mart shoplifting suspect.

Supervisor Stephen Kulla said it seems as if police are spending a significant portion of their time at the Rouzerville Commons shopping center.

"Can we assess any fees to them for that service?" he asked. "Why shouldn't they pay something beyond their real estate taxes?"

"Maybe several of those businesses over there would be willing to pay the salary of a Washington Township police officer to be there during the most critical times," Lisko said.

Keller said Wal-Mart donated $5,000 to the police department when it opened. That money was spent on a camera for inside a police cruiser.

In other business at Monday's supervisors meeting, Wal-Mart joined the Rouzerville Business Association in donating a cedar play set for Red Run Park. The supervisors accepted that donation on the caveat that it must be approved by their insurance provider.

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