2009-02-19 / Front Page

State Police Beef Up Boro Patrols

Asks citizens to report suspicious activity By Jean Snyder STAFF WRITER

Seven weeks after taking over law enforcement in the borough on a full-time basis, Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) at the Mc- Connellsburg station say they have "run a few patrol-related details in the borough, specifically to let everyone know that we are and will be around."

While many citizens report seeing a greater PSP presence in the community since the disbandment of the McConnellsburg Borough Police two-man force at the end of 2008, PSP Station Cmdr. Sgt. Jesse Zorger says his "officers have additional enforcement efforts planned specifically for in the borough, so we have not yet hit our stride regarding extra enforcement efforts in the borough."

He also said the few details that have been run within Mc- Connellsburg Borough thus far, most of the people encountered are just passing through. "Most are not from the borough and a high percentage of drivers are actually not even from Fulton County," he said.

Zorger went on to say, "While we are not going to pick on or single out borough residents for our enforcement efforts, we will be running several additional traffic checks, speed enforcement and drug interdiction efforts in the borough."

Citing economic reasons, Mc- Connellsburg Borough Council voted 4-2 in August 2008 to disband the force that was organized in the borough more than 80 years ago. Council said it spent nearly $154,000 on police expenses in 2007 and, after seeing a proposed new union contract that would have begun on January 1, 2009, concluded, it could no longer afford the department without significantly raising taxes, something council said it could not do to people on fixed incomes during such tough economic times.

Sgt. Zorger said although the number of incidents handled by his station has increased since January 1, it is too early to tell for sure if it is a result of taking over full-time coverage in the borough. "Our incident numbers increased significantly during 2008 in comparison to 2007, and, of course, the borough police department was operating the entire time. Our increase in incident numbers to date during 2009 is similar to the percent increase we saw last year," he said.

Sgt. Zorger also clarified that his station will not be receiving additional manpower in response to the borough department being disbanded. "We may get an extra patrol and possibly an extra criminal investigator in 2010 if our incident numbers continue to increase at the same rate that we witnessed during 2009," he added.

It turns out that Mc- Connellsburg is just one of many small communities opting out of local police departments in favor of asking PSP to provide full-time coverage. As reported earlier, more than 65 municipal police departments have been disbanded since 2002, with several more considering such a move.

Although the disbanded departments are mostly small forces in small towns, there are some significantly larger than McConnellsburg that have made the move. The borough of McConnellsburg has a shrinking population, one that has decreased from 1,166 in 1990 to 1,073 in 2000 to 1,044 in 2007.

Other larger towns that have given up their municipal police forces include Mont Alto in Franklin County, with a population of 1,822; Elizabethville in Dauphin County, with a population of 1,284; and Williamstown, also in Dauphin County, with a population of 1,355. York Springs in York County, with a population of only 650, also disbanded its department.

The PSP provides full-time police coverage for more than 1,300 of the state's 2,573 municipalities, according to published reports.

In the meantime, Sgt. Zorg- er said, "The one thing that I would like all county residents to know more than any other is that the best way that they can help us to keep a lid on things is to be aware of what is going on in your neighborhood and never be afraid to call the station to report suspicious activity."

Zorger praised county citizens for their level of cooperation, calling it "outstanding." He said, "Our results regarding clearing numerous investigations of late have been due in large part to that cooperation. The fact of the matter is that we have 14 or 15 state troopers working patrol in a county that consists of over 400 square miles. If we could be everywhere all the time we would, however, that is simply not possible. We need the assistance and cooperation of all residents of Fulton County."

Zorger concluded by saying, "If someone witnesses a crime and does nothing to deter that activity, they are in effect asking to be the next victim. With the assistance of area residents, we stand a much better chance of ensuring the safest possible community for all."

Although the PSP occasionally receives calls regarding borough ordinance enforcement on things such as nuisance, trash and snow removal, state police officers cannot enforce local laws or ordinances - only state laws. The McConnellsburg Borough Council continues to discuss how those ordinances as well as parking meter violations will be handled in the future.

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