TRUMBULL COUNTY Localities plan for limited policing
The sheriff's department won't respond to crimes against property.
WARREN -- The absence of sheriff's road patrols in Trumbull County's rural northern townships doesn't mean the communities lack police presence.
Eight of the 15 rural townships in northern Trumbull, for example, have their own police departments -- all but one being part time.
Some of these townships with cops are talking to their neighboring townships without police, trying to reach service agreements.
Plus, the sheriff will still respond to serious crimes against people.
Seeking some arrangement
"I'm sure the townships will arrive at some arrangements to make sure that everyone at least has [police] emergency response," said Mark Finamore, a lawyer who represents most of the county's townships on an as-needed basis.
Finamore also is vice president of the Trumbull County Townships Association and a Vienna Township trustee.
The sheriff's department handed out layoff slips to address a $5.4 million cut in its budget this year. County income was lost from a half-percent sales tax defeated by voters in November 2003.
First to go were the sheriff's road patrols, and sheriff's officials have warned of a potential rise in crimes in the northern rural townships of the county.
Sheriff Thomas Altiere and Ernest Cook, chief of operations, met with the part-time police chiefs this month to explain what services the county can still provide, and to make sure the departments' mutual-aid pacts are in order.
Serious crime a priority
The sheriff will continue to respond to "Priority One" crimes against a person: homicide, assault, domestic complaints, robbery and burglary in progress.
"If it's a crime against property -- someone breaks into your shed, knocks over a mailbox -- we don't have the ability to come there," Cook explained.
In those cases, the townships are on their own.
The Trumbull County townships without their own cops are Bloomfield, Bristol, Farmington, Greene, Gustavus, Mesopotamia, Southington and Vernon.
Mecca Township pays the sheriff's department for service three days a week.
Those northern communities having police departments are Bazetta, Champion, Fowler, Hartford, Johnston, Kinsman and Vienna; only Champion's is a full-time operation. Cortland city also maintains full-time police.
"There are some communities that aren't completely without [their own] coverage," noted Donald Barzak, Johnston Township trustee chairman.
Townships in other parts of Trumbull County with police departments are Braceville, Brookfield, Howland, Hubbard, Liberty, Newton, Warren and Weathersfield.
'A major concern'
All of the county's townships still depended on the deputy sheriffs to cruise through their areas, Barzak noted. The sheriff's layoffs continue to be "a major concern. It ought to be a major concern to all the county," he said.
Kinsman trustee chairman Tim Woofter said he feels that "the county owes us that service, and we're not getting it."
In Johnston Township's case, Barzak said there are 10 part-time police and five to eight reserve officers now being put to use. "Our own patrols in our township have increased already," he said.
Barzak conceded that at scattered times in Johnston there could be no patrols. To counter this, the police are varying their work times and where their patrol cars are located.
"If you tell people when your patrols are going to be out, then the bad guys will know when to be out," he explained.
Johnston also is talking with Bristol about providing police protection -- for a price -- but nothing is finalized, he said.
Finamore explained that townships can outright contract with one another and pay money for response to calls from the public, or they can pay a police agency for a certain amount of patrol hours. Also, the townships could band together to create a joint police district that would combine resources and tax bases for some level of service.
Vienna has one full-time and eight part-time police officers. "Our police chief has indicated we certainly would be willing to meet with anyone that needs help, to see what we can do," Finamore said.
Working with neighbors
Vernon Township is also talking with Hartford about a three-month trial contract, paying for 30 to 36 hours of staggered patrols per month, said Gary Slovinsky, Vernon trustee chairman. "We're just putting everything together and talking. Hopefully we could work together with our neighbor," he said.
"We've got some problem areas in the township where we'd just like to have a cruiser present," Slovinsky explained, noting there has been property damaged by snowmobiles and four-wheelers.
Champion hasn't yet been approached by any of its neighbor townships, but would be willing to discuss ways it could help -- for a contracted price, trustee chairman Jeff Hovanic said. "We would not want to take community tax money and use it in another jurisdiction," he noted.
Hubbard Township Chief Todd Coonce noted that all of the county's police departments, same as the sheriff, are facing budget crunches and manpower shortages, but will try to lend as much support as possible to one another.
"Every department has offered to provide mutual aid, as needed," he said.