By Ed Runyan
The number of times Old Order Amish from Trumbull County have made news recently has been unusual.
From the beard and hair-cutting attacks that made national news and involved a few residents of northwest Trumbull County in 2011, to sex charges involving seven girls filed against Daniel Miller of West Farmington earlier this year, courthouse trips by members of the Amish community have become more common.
Added to that were arrests June 30 near Mesopotamia involving young Amish males illegally possessing alcoholic beverages.
A short time later, Deputy Rick Tackett of the county sheriff’s office and an Amish bishop decided it was time to address concerns in the Amish community about crime.
It resulted in a meeting Monday night in the Mesopotamia Township Fire Hall that was attended by hundreds of members of the Amish community, as well a small number of non-Amish, said Lt. Jeff Orr of the sheriff’s office who also is commander of the Trumbull Ashtabula Group Law Enforcement Task Force.
There are concerns about young people consuming alcohol, sometimes while traveling in a horse-drawn buggy, but the Amish are concerned about other types of crimes, just like non-Amish, Orr said.
“Mesopotamia is no different from Warren,” he said. “Any community has its problems. It’s parents not taking care of kids,” Orr said.
The alcohol problem came to a head June 30, after residents started to report concerns to the sheriff’s office, Orr said.
At 5:30 p.m. June 30, a sheriff’s deputy saw an Amish buggy traveling down state Route 534 just south of Mesopotamia with a male sitting on the roof and numerous others hanging out of it.
The officer observed the driver tossing a six-pack of wine coolers onto the roadway, and he also later found a 12-pack of beer inside the buggy.
The occupants were charged with illegal possession of intoxicating liquor. The two 18-year-olds were ordered into Newton Falls Municipal Court. The two 17-year-olds, including the driver, were ordered into Trumbull County Juvenile Court. All were from the Mesopotamia area.
An hour earlier on Bundysburg Road between Mesopotamia and Middlefield, Tackett arrested a 20-year-old Middlfield man in an Amish buggy for having an open container of alcohol in the vehicle and failure to comply with an officer’s orders after spotting the buggy being driven erratically.
Tackett reminded those at the meeting that the Amish have to obey traffic and other laws, the same as non-Amish.
It was apparent from the discussion that some Amish would like to notify police about criminal activity more, but they fear retaliation for contacting police, much like non-Amish, Orr said.
“They would like to be anonymous [when reporting incidents], but they will get involved. They need guidance from us on how to get help,” Orr said.
“The sheriff’s office’s stand is there will be zero tolerance for any type of intimidation,” Orr said.
Tackett has established good relationships with the people in the Mesopotamia area, and the meeting reinforced the idea that sheriff’s deputies are willing to help, Orr said.