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Thornville discusses police levy

THORNVILLE – How badly does Thornville need more police protection?

Thornville Village Council held a town meeting March 14 to learn if residents are concerned enough about enhancing police protection to place a five-mill-police levy on the ballot. Mayor Gavin Renner was clear that council has made no decision to increase police staffing or place a levy on the ballot since the meeting.

Roughly 30 residents attended the meeting, as did Perry County Sheriff William Barker and Thornville Police Chief Darrell Ball.

“I heard valuable input from villagers, Sheriff Barker and Chief Ball at the town meeting,” said council member Olivia Newbold. “It’s important for village council to listen to the opinions and concerns of villagers to ensure that tax money is spent appropriately and wisely. I think council should keep this process as transparent as possible and avoid pushing through a five-mill permanent police levy on an emergency basis.”

Newbold added, “With input from the villagers and law enforcement, council can make an informed decision about whether the levy is needed, or whether alternative solutions can be put in place.”

Mayor Gavin Renner said, “Overall I believe that Chief Ball and the auxiliary officers under his command do a good job for the village. He personally is very committed to protecting the residents and providing solid investigative services that lead to arrests.”

Renner continued, “I’d like to see the opportunity for more coverage because there are times when I’d like for an officer to be available to slow down speeders, deal with curfew issues and patrol on a regular basis. While we don’t want to create a speed trap and do want to spend the people’s money well, there are instances when I’d like there to be more options available. For instance, protecting our kids when they are walking to and from school, or making sure that people aren’t dealing with petty theft and vandalism.”

Renner said law enforcement is a noble job and the Thornville Police force is committed to its work. “They have obligations and family that they need to support as well so I’d like for there to be more support from the community,” he said. “We can’t always prevent crime from happening, but we can provide the tools necessary for more officers to be available when needed.”

Council member Dale Brussee said he proposed the five-mills option for an increase in police protection after attending the funeral of Danville officer and former Thornville auxiliary officer Thomas Cottrell, who was slain in the line of duty January. “Thornville is not that different from Danville,” Brussee said. “It just hit me.” He wondered if Thornville residents were ready to add 40 hours more of permanent police protection to the village. Following extensive research and consideration, Brussee concluded a five-mills levy would be the best method to cover the extra protection without dipping into the village’s general fund. He said it was very important to him for residents to have an opportunity to vote on the measure and decide for themselves if they believe enhanced police protection is necessary for Thornville.

Brussee said the rest of council wants to explore alternatives to a levy, so it’s likely discussion will continue for a while before any conclusions are reached. “It’s up to the rest of council to decide,” said Brussee, who still believes a five-mills levy is the best alternative.

Renner said some of the most important questions residents raised during the meeting include:

• Raising the funds to bring on part-time officers instead of a full-time person-This would save money on certain types of insurance and expenses the village would have to incur with a full-time officer.

• Concerns about the level of crime going up over time-Instead of waiting for that to happen, being more proactive and dealing with it now.

• Some residents didn’t believe extra police protection is necessary as the local 911, sheriff’s office and police force are providing coverage.

• Residents have concerns about calling in an emergency and getting a voicemail or not getting an immediate response.

Renner provided some up-to-date stats about the Thornville Police force:

• Staff – The Police Department is composed of one full-time police chief (required by Ohio Law) and nine auxiliary officers.

• Jurisdiction – The police department only has jurisdiction inside the Thornville Municipal Corporation borders. Law requires Thornville to provide assistance when requested by the Perry County Sheriff or 911.

• Auxiliary Officers – Auxiliaries are essentially volunteer but can receive an annual dollar amount if they meet the minimum number of working hours per month. These individuals often are retired or have full-time jobs outside the village.

• Hours – Currently, Thornville does not have 24/7 police protection. Instead it rotates shifts based on the need and best guess. The village may have 40-60 hours of coverage per week to work with (depending upon auxiliary officers).

• Benefits – Benefits to workers include insurance, overtime, vacation, pension, Ohio Police Fund, Ohio Volunteer Police Fund, training, and equipment.

Types of crime the village deals with on a regular basis:

• Petty theft and criminal mischief (vehicle break-ins, vandalism, curfew violations)

• Domestic disputes

• Moving vehicle violations (speeding during rush hour, running red lights, accidents)

• Break- ins and robbery (Thornville Pharmacy, home break-ins)

• Citations (zoning violations, summons, etc)

• Prosecution – Currently cases go to the Mayor’s Court or Perry County depending on circumstances. The village has expenses for magistrate, prosecutor, and clerk. Jail also costs the village money at the county level.

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