Chief, mayor excited about growing police force
Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 26, 2008
In the coming days, Ironton residents will see some new additions to the Ironton Police Department: these additions don’t have badges, though. They have wheels.
Four new 2008 Ford Crown Victoria police cruisers were delivered to Ironton Friday; four more will be delivered Monday.
These new additions will bring to total 10 the new or very nearly new cruisers.
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The new cruisers, some new officers, an invigorated community-relations push and some general sprucing up at the police department are on the list of changes among and around the city’s finest.
A commitment to public safety
Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship said city leaders are making a greater commitment to provide the police department with the necessary tools and manpower to do what has to be done.
Over the past couple of years the Ironton City Council has appropriated money to not only buy equipment but to get more officers on the street.
Blankenship thinks the recent changes are having an impact.
“I think the proper equipment and training have obviously made for a more effective police department,” he said. “They risk their lives every day and need the proper equipment to do their jobs.”
Blankenship said he is hearing comments from citizens who have noticed these changes and approve.
Part of the city’s municipal fee, which brings in roughly $40,000 a month, is used to fund the police department.
“We appreciate the citizens for allowing us to do this and for giving us time to make changes,” Blankenship said.
In past years, the city bought heavily-used cruisers from the Ohio Highway patrol and from other law enforcement agencies. It was all the department could afford.
The problem with used cars is that they come complete with high mileage and high maintenance and a list of problems that cost money.
“We’ve spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $15,000-$20,000 so far on maintenance this year,” Police Chief Jim Carey said of the older cars in his fleet. “These new ones are fully warranted. I think we’ll cut our maintenance costs in half next year, easily.”
“Some of the old cars were in decrepit condition,” he said.
Carey said the two new cruisers purchased last year will need approximately $100 in maintenance for oil changes and other upkeep, compared to the thousands of dollars each year required to keep high-mileage older vehicles on the road.
The new cars have been acquired on a lease purchase program through the Ford Motor Company. The cost is $69,000 a year for three years. At the end of the three years, the city can pay $1 and own all four cars.
While it may sound like a lot of money, Carey said it is not as big of a bite out of the budget as it may seem. The city impound lot generates approximately $40,000 annually and, with this money applied to the cost of the car lease, it cuts the cost of the new cruisers to $29,000 a year. By purchasing new vehicles, he hopes to save as much as $10,000 a year in maintenance costs, thus bringing the dent in the budget down even further.
In January 2005, there were 12 officers patrolling city streets. At one point, two officers were on the injured list, pushing that number down even further.
More money budgeted for the police department has allowed for more names on the police roster. There are now 17 men and women wearing a blue uniform these days. The two most recent additions to the staff are Patrolman Chad Gue three months ago and Patrolman John Hammond six months ago.
Carey said he hopes to hire one more officer after the first of the year, bringing the roster to 18.
More officers to share the workload also mean a drop in overtime costs. In 2002, Carey said overtime hours amounted to $70,000- $80,000.
“Now, it’s in the 50s,” he said. “It saves money. That (savings) almost pays for another officer.”
New push for safety
Since taking office nearly three years ago, Carey said he has made traffic safety a priority. Impaired driving. Speeding. These and other traffic infractions are being addressed more frequently than perhaps in previous years.
In 2002, the department tallied 150 citations for the year. Last year that number was 550. The point is not to write lots of tickets but to point out unsafe driving behavior that leads to unsafe roadways.
“Traffic enforcement is 10 times what it used to be. In DUI’s, we’ve surpassed last year,” Carey said. And he says the statistics are beginning to show the increase in traffic patrol is leading to a decrease in the number of car accidents.
There is also a push these days to bring the police department and the community it serves together. An agreement with the Ironton Metropolitan Housing Authority allows an officer to spend more time in the Ninth Street housing complex area, where some residents have complained of about crime and have asked for a greater police presence. Officers also now do walk-throughs in city schools when school is in session.
Those who come to the police station these days will find the dirty white walls painted with a new shade of subtle grey. It is one step in a process to make the department more attractive. Old, worn out carpeting will be replaced by tile in most areas and new carpet in less traveled areas.