I am the Chief of Police for the Village of Baltimore. I have not answered any of the questions that have been raised in this section but now feel that some things need clarified.
A recent Letter to the Editor talked about several things that simply are not true. The letter discussed whether a police levy would return to the ballot in some form. That is not a decision that I make and will need to be answered by village council. I will tell you that there have been many residents who have spoken to me about the November levy and said that they misunderstood or were mislead about the need for that levy. Many now say that they voted “no” because of distortions or mistruths.
Mr. Bob VanDyke, a resident, was heavily opposed to the last levy. He now has changed his mind and is urging council to put a levy back on. I am sure he would talk to anyone who wants his reasons.
The police levy had nothing to do with expansion or growth. It had to do with maintaining the level of service that was available at that time. Since the levy failed, the police department has laid off two full time officers effectively ending full time patrol.
Currently there are two patrolling officers for the village. That equates to 40 hours of coverage scheduled during a given week. That leaves a total of 128 non-scheduled hours. We attempt to cover some of those hours with reserve or volunteer officers. Remember that the reserve officers have full-time jobs and that reduces the number of hours that they can work through the week. As to who is on patrol when no Baltimore officer is available, the answer is no one. On an as available basis, the Sheriff’s office will respond to calls in the village. They may respond from just down the road or from Bremen or Pickerington or wherever they may be assisting other residents of the county. There are no sheriff’s cars patrolling the village or assigned to the village when there are no Baltimore officers on duty.
The need for the last levy came from several issues. First is a reduction in the money that would normally come from the state. Next is an increase in the cost of fuel and insurances. I think that everyone who owns a car understands the cost to fill up a gas tank today. Most importantly is the cost of investigations. As a recent writer well knows from the numerous times we have responded to his residence and from a major investigation that resulting in several arrests after a burglary at his house, it takes numerous hours and resources to solve a crime. Nothing is free anymore and the police are not exempt from that.
The police department has a budget that is set by the village council. As the chief I am mandated to live within that budget. We have done that. Anyone is welcome to contact the village fiscal officer to verify this. The only way that we can spend above and beyond the budget is if there were some sort of emergency and that has to be approved by council. I am baffled where the idea that the police department has exceeded its budget comes from.
I am also baffled by some of the untruths that are written or spoken. One of my favorites is that we purchased a “SWAT” truck. The police department does not have a SWAT team and certainly would not need a SWAT truck. We do have an old fire department medic that was given to us by the fire department to haul DARE equipment and on occasion other items too large to be hauled in a police car. Everything on the vehicle was donated. The paint was supplied by our local Subway restaurant. The rest of the work was completed by members of the department who volunteered their time. The department has four police cars. Of those, one has a blown motor and due to age and mileage another is unsafe to drive. Officers as a rule purchase their own equipment. Many either do not have bullet proof vests or are wearing ones that are outdated. The state mandates certain training and that has to come out of our budget. A major expense is the cost of state mandated firearms training.
In closing, I would invite anyone with questions to contact me. I am always available to speak to residents. I would also urge those that chose the path of the poison pen begin attending council meetings, get the truth from the fiscal officer, or speak individually to one of their council persons.
This is not 50 years ago. Over 40 percent of the residences in Baltimore are now rentals. Many no longer know their neighbors. Drug abuse including heroin is an epidemic. Domestic violence is on the rise as is the fractured family. The vast majority of persons arrested for major crimes are not from Baltimore and we are seeing a negative criminal influence from the Columbus area creep into our town. I wish we could go back to a simpler time. That is not possible. I can only pledge to the residents of Baltimore that your police department will continue to do the very best they can with what they have to work with.
Michael W. Tussey, Chief of Police