Council members eye changes for Canal Winchester police coverage

SCOTT GERFEN
editorial@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

Discussions about expanding law enforcement in Canal Winchester and the city's relationship with Madison Township police have returned to Canal Winchester City Council's agenda.

The city is looking at adding one or two deputies to its contract with the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office, and officials also hope to sit down with Madison Township trustees and township police Chief Gary York to talk more about how often officers from those departments patrol the city.

"We've got all this development and a lot of new people coming here," council member Pat Lynch said during an Aug. 3 meeting. "We can't expect our police force to remain the same and expect it to effectively serve that many more people."

In 2018, Canal Winchester had signed a three-year agreement with the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office to provide police protection for $1.16 million annually.

The contract, which expires Dec. 31, 2021, provides for a full-time sergeant and two deputies covering 24-hour shifts seven days a week, and a third deputy to work a shift mutually agreed upon by the mayor and the sheriff.

A full-time dispatcher also is assigned to Canal Winchester.

"If we were to add more, I'd like to put one on second shift, and if we can add two, the other would go to first shift," Fairfield County sheriff's Sgt. Jesse Hendershot said.

Along with the sheriff's contract, property owners in Canal Winchester -- which is in Madison Township -- have paid taxes since the 1970s to support the township police department; according to township figures, that amount is now more than $600,000 annually.

In October 2019, York and township administrator Susan Brobst addressed council about township police patrols. An agreement never was reached, but officials discussed the possibility of allowing township officers to write charges under Canal Winchester codes, which are handled in the city's mayor's court.

"Not one time have I gotten a call from the mayor or anyone on Canal Winchester City Council," township trustees chairman John Pritchard said. "It would be nice to have the common courtesy to give us a call."

Currently, township officers patrolling within Canal Winchester city limits may write charges under state law, which are filed in municipal courts.

"I haven't seen (Madison Township) officers as much since the (November 2019) election," Councilwoman Jill Amos said. "It's crazy. Maybe we need to put more pressure on them to have more presence."

"Apparently, they're not reading the statistics we provide," Pritchard said.

York said he has been providing monthly statistics to City Council.

In June, township officers responded to more than 1,630 calls for service. Of those, 103 were in Canal Winchester. Through six months, township police reported more than 9,900 calls for service, with more than 800 in the city.

York has said the township's 16 full-time officers who patrol 40 square miles have greater visibility in the city. At least two officers are on duty for each of the township's three daily shifts, he said.

"How do we move (forward) to see how many additional officers we need in this community?" council member Bob Clark asked. "I think that's step one. Then we need a study to figure out do we have the right amount, or do we need more?"

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