2016-07-15 / Community

Arundel leans toward adding second deputy

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

ARUNDEL — Although selectmen seem generally inclined to hire a second sheriff’s deputy to patrol the town – as residents have asked – and to possibly call a special town meeting to appropriate the necessary funds, they were not quite ready to sign off without specifics at their Monday, July 11, meting.

“We appreciate the enthusiasm, but give us numbers,” Selectman Dan Dubois said. “We’ve got to take this to voters. Give us some options that we can consider.”

To that end, selectmen authorized Town Manager Keith Trefethen to enter into negotiations with County Manager Gregory Zinser over the specifics of pricing for a second deputy and payment options for his or her cruiser.

Trefethen said he will return to the board with specifics, once a formal proposal is available.

When raising hands at the June 15 annual town meeting to appropriate funds for police protection, residents expressed interested in hiring a second sheriff’s deputy to patrol town.

York County Sheriff William King thinks that’s a good idea, and this past Monday told selectmen that it could be done so long as the town kicks in to buy a second cruiser as well.

At the town meeting, residents raised $80,000 to contract with the sheriff’s department to post one deputy in Arundel exclusively for 40 hours per week. Part of that deal also calls on the town to supply the cruiser used by Deputy Greg Sevigny, and this year the town ponied up $33,000 to replace his old ride, a 2012 model with more than 100,000 miles on it.

According to King, the full cost for Sevigny’s services for calendar year 2016 will come to $87,854. That includes his time at $23.86 per hour, along with $25,465 in employer’s payroll costs, retirement payments, and health benefits, as well as $7,760 in incidental operating expenses, such as vehicle gas and uniforms. However,

King said the town could save by choosing to hire a younger, less experienced deputy.

Meanwhile, the price for a 2017 Ford Interceptor SUV, fully tricked out for police work, would be $33,752.

“There’s no way the two deputies could share a cruiser?” Selectman Jason Nadeau asked.

“We typically don’t do that,” King said, “but the county manager has been very creative with other towns in working out a loan program, or amortizing it over a couple of years.”

Chief Deputy Tom Baran said the 40 hours put in by a second deputy would likely be evenings and nights, primarily those with the heaviest call volume – Friday, Saturday and Wednesday. However, there will still be hours of overlap with Sevigny’s shift, when both would need to be on the road, he said.

But King said there are other, less obvious reasons to maintain a 1:1 deputy to cruiser ratio.

“We have found that these vehicles last much longer when they are assigned to one person,” King said. “They stay cleaner, they get serviced, and they’re fully equipped the way each deputy wants it when he rolls up on scene.”

“Could we hire one [deputy] and share with one or two other communities?” Trefethen asked.

“We could certainly enterprise that, but I have to tell you, while I never want to sell fear, Arundel is on that cusp right now of really needing that added deputy.”

Currently, the sheriff’s department is the only law enforcement in 14 of 29 York County municipalities without a police force of their own, although it does have a call-sharing agreement with state police – “due to our lack of staffing,” King said – to cover five of those towns.

“So, they typically cover Alfred, Lebanon, Hollis, Lyman and Dayton,” King said.

For its part, the sheriff’s department keeps 14 deputies in “general rotation,” King said, while providing dedicated service to nine towns, including Arundel. The other towns that pay for exclusive coverage are Acton, Cornish, Newfield, Limerick, Limington, Parsonsfield, Shapleigh, and Waterboro. The department also is in talks to provide dedicated patrols to Lyman and Hollis, King said. Arundel “could possibly” share a deputy with one of those towns, King said, although he recommended against it.

“Acton and Shapleigh have shared a deputy for several years and both of them are now saying, ‘We want our own guy,’” he said. “Problem is, they both want the same guy.

“We believe that a second contracted deputy is warranted here in Arundel and, clearly, will increase that quality of life that you have,” King told selectmen. “We feel that as Arundel is growing, the need will only increase, and I would be remiss if did not say there is a lot of heroin in places like Biddeford and that will eventually spill into Arundel, and I think we’ve already experienced that.”

In statistics for the past five years presented at Monday’s meeting, Baran noted that drug investigations in Arundel rose from a single case in 2011, to seven last year, not counting deaths from drug overdoses.

Meanwhile, many other incident types have actually leveled off, although King said that is a typical pattern when his office launches dedicated coverage in a new town, as an initial spike in reported incidents due to the sudden, regular appearance of a deputy is followed by a plateau as people get used to his or her presence.

“It’s not that there’s suddenly more crime, it’s that we are uncovering it,” King said. “And, of course, when you solve one burglary, you don’t just solve that one, you solve 10 of them, because it’s usually that same person who has been doing it.”

“Then things go down with the police presence, with the visibility, the police cruiser being in town, and people following up getting information to the deputy,” Baran said.

For example, burglaries investigated by the sheriff’s department fell from a high of 34 in 2012 to just nine last year, while domestic violence cases dropped from 73 in 2011, to 47 in 2015.

Meanwhile, a dedicated presence also helps draw compliance with traffic laws, Baran said.

“People see the lights and they get the idea there’s someone here,” he said.

Traffic stops have fallen in Arundel from a high of 1,348 in 2014 to 902 last year. But even so, Baran noted, Arundel accounts for 36 percent of all speed-related crashes investigated by the sheriff’s office in the nine towns to which it provides dedicated coverage. Waterboro comes in second at 21 percent, with the rest in the single digits. That, King said, makes Arundel “the Number 1 priority for enforcement activity” among the nine towns in which it posts a deputy full time.

Currently, the sheriff’s department is using a $20,000 federal grant to pay for added details targeted solely to speed enforcement, with the lion’s share of those patrols centered in Arundel. A second deputy would help reduce speeding incidents, Baran said, noting that York County had the most traffic fatalities in Maine last year, at 21.

“We want to do something about this. We want to save lives,” Baran said.

Although second to Arundel in terms of crashes, Waterboro has recently hired its second dedicated deputy, King said.

But a deputy does more than just respond to vehicle crashes and basing a second one in town would help to reduce response time to all incidents, Baran said. Currently, he noted, it takes an average of 16.5 minutes for a deputy to get on scene when called somewhere in Arundel. Doubling the number of hours a deputy is in town, instead of coming from elsewhere in the county, will reduce that, Baran said.

A second deputy also would become a point person for details involving Bentley’s Saloon on Route 1, which can draw the watchful eyes of as many as nine deputies for large events, Baran said.

But just as importantly, King said, a dedicated deputy serves as a sort of “ambassador” to a town at the sheriff’s office.

“Our contract towns like Arundel really help us out, it really supplements our patrols,” King said. “It gives us one point of contact – somebody who sort of sees that town as their own and advocates for investigations. It has proved to be a successful model.”

And, although certain call types have leveled off, the total number of incidents covered by the sheriff’s department in Arundel has jumped 17.3 percent over the past five years, from 2,725 in 2011 to 3,195 last year. Those incidents include dispatched calls (down 34 percent) and those cases, including traffic stops, initiated by the local deputy (up 213.7 percent).

Although selectmen seemed generally inclined to hire a second deputy, as residents asked, and to possibly call a special town meeting to appropriate funds, they were not ready to sign off without specifics.

“We appreciate the enthusiasm, but give us numbers,” Selectman Dan Dubois said. “We’ve got to take this to voters. Give us some options that we can consider.”

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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