The Prairie Township Board of Trustees approved a contract with the Franklin County Sheriff's Office that greatly increases the sheriff's presence from last year.
Trustees OK'd the contract at their Feb. 6 board meeting. The $854,503.52 annual contract will be paid in monthly installments of $71,208.63 through the end of the year.
Township Administrator Tracy Hatmaker said while the cost of the contract is up 5 percent from last year, there is also an increase in the number of patrol officers out on the streets.
"Last year, the sheriff's department had 19 shifts and we have increased that to 35 shifts with the addition of a second dedicated vehicle," Hatmaker said.
Trustees said one of the promises the board made to the community was to increase police protection if the JEDZ (Joint Economic Development Zone) was passed in 2011, and it was. The increase in patrols was first initiated last fall as money from the JEDZ became available.
According to the contract, the sheriff's office is committed to providing police protection to the township for 280 hours per week. One deputy sheriff is assigned exclusively to the township for 16 hours a day, seven days a week and one deputy sheriff is assigned 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The sheriff's office also agrees to consult with the township in determining the times during which the deputy sheriff will be exclusively assigned to the township, the contract states. Those dedicated vehicles within the township will be marked with decals reading "Prairie Township."
In attendance at the meeting for the reading of the contract was Franklin County Sheriff's Deputy Michael Weiner, who takes the time during each trustees' meeting to update residents about current crime trends affecting the township.
In the past few weeks, he said, Prairie Township has seen an increase in the number of vehicle accidents because of inclement weather, a rise in burglaries at vacant homes where individuals are searching for copper and an increase in the number of vehicle break-in in the business district.
"We've been pretty busy," Weiner said. "Most of the vehicle break-ins are occurring between the hours of noon to one. Be conscious of what you leave in the car."
Weiner said thieves will look for clues as to what may be hiding in vehicles, including marks from suction cups left on windows by GPS devices.
The next Prairie Township board of trustees meeting is slated for 7 p.m. Feb. 20 at Township Hall, 23 Maple Drive.