The thicker blue line: Quarterly assessment yields public safety dividends

By on April 6, 2016

 

Most entrepreneurs would love to get the return on their investments that officials in West Cocalico Township and Adamstown Borough are realizing as the result of their decisions to contract coverage with the Ephrata Police Department.

It was on Jan. 1, that Ephrata Police began patrols in the two municipalities.

As readers of the Review may recall, the decision of these officials to end their long-time contracts with the East Cocalico Township Police Department did not come easily.

For nearly two years, the question of police coverage often dominated municipal meetings as well as meetings of a special regional police board created to consider establishing a Cocalico Regional Police Department.

Over that time, questions about police pension liabilities, projected costs, and other financials created some uncomfortable exchanges both among officials and concerned members of the public. And, too, a failed joint property endeavor of the four Cocalico municipalities spearheaded by East Cocalico added to the tensions and trust dynamics.

But unscathed through it all was the respect for the personnel of the East Cocalico Police. Citizens in all four boroughs knew the officers, knew the quality of their work. And, in the end, when Adamstown and West Cocalico officials made the choice to go with Ephrata Police for largely financial reasons, it didn’t go over well with some residents.

But like their East Cocalico counterparts, Ephrata Police brought to the table seasoned and competent personnel whose efficient operations and individual affability are winning over the skeptics.

Photos by Donna Reed Lt. Thomas Shoemaker of the Ephrata Police Department with maps of West Cocalico Township and Adamstown Borough, the two municipalities now patrolled by Ephrata police.

Photos by Donna Reed
Lt. Thomas Shoemaker of the Ephrata Police Department with maps of West Cocalico Township and Adamstown Borough, the two municipalities now patrolled by Ephrata police.

And, that’s something that makes Ephrata Chief William Harvey and Lt. Thomas Shumaker smile as one full quarter of the new working relationships is now under their belts.

“Our style of policing is customer-service based,” said Harvey. “We look at every citizen, business owner, and tourist as our customer. We try to treat every person the same as we treat our own family.”

Shumaker notes that the department includes an officer who was laid off by East Cocalico when the force was cut to serve a smaller area. That former East Cocalico officer, along with four additional new officers, are completing their field training for the Ephrata force. By early summer, they will be patrolling on their own. In total, the force has 33 full-time officers and one civilian community service officer who deals with routine items such as abandoned cars, parking issues, and evidence transport.

In 2015, Ephrata Police responded to 14,471 calls. Both men expect that number to rise significantly in 2016.

The two new municipalities have been designated as one additional patrol zone for the Ephrata force, Shumaker said.

The sheer size of the municipalities has more than doubled the coverage territory for Ephrata Police.

“Ephrata Township and Ephrata Borough comprise 18.1 square miles,” said Harvey, “and now with adding Adamstown and West Cocalico Township, we’ve added 29 square miles.

“We put on a lot of rural mileage in West Cocalico because parts are heavily forested and much of the township is farmland.”

And while the territory has expanded, proportionately the population served has not. There are a little over 21,000 residents in the two Ephratas as opposed to about 8,700 in Adamstown and West Cocalico, Harvey said.

Both men expressed relief that the transition has been a good one.

Shumaker credits Sgt. Chris McKim with creating liaison relationships between patrol officers and members of each municipality’s road crew, firefighters, and ambulance personnel.

“That transition went by the book, clockwork, really,” said Shumaker.

Just inside the door at 3000 N. Reading Road between the entrance to the Adamstown Borough Hall and the Adamstown Area Library, a rack of public safety brochures is kept well supplied by the Ephrata police.

Just inside the door at 3000 N. Reading Road between the entrance to the Adamstown Borough Hall and the Adamstown Area Library, a rack of public safety brochures is kept well supplied by the Ephrata police.

Officials in Adamstown and West Cocalico seem to concur.

“The fire and ambulance people have reported that they are very happy with the very professional working relationship that’s developed and the good job the police are doing,” said Carolyn Hildebrand, West Cocalico manager.

“It’s been going very well,” said Randy Good, Adamstown council president. “I will tell you that Ephrata (Police force) doesn’t take a back seat to anyone.”

Good said that borough Mayor Dean Johnson has played a lead role working with Harvey and Shumaker in the transition. He is pleased with the visibility of the Ephrata Police.

“I see them around town a lot,” he said. “You never know where they’re parked or what time you are going to see them.”

Hildebrand said Shumaker and Sgt. Dave Shupp have been very helpful in having their officers target dangerous West Cocalico intersections, specifically Route 897 and Sportsman Road as well as Schoneck and Indiantown roads where speeding and rolling stops are rampant.

“J.J. (Supervisor Chair James J. Stoner) was particularly concerned about the 897 intersection as he sees lots of folks speeding there,” she said. “They (the police) have been both sitting out there and issuing tickets. That has really helped.”

Also helping, said Hildebrand and Good, are the strong and dependable numbers from Ephrata that are assisting the municipalities as they do long-range budget planning.

“The move to (contracting with) Ephrata has been very cost effective,” he said. “We now have the numbers for the next five years. We know what that will be and we can work with that.”

Both say the openness and transparency in dealing with the department is a bonus.

Also a bonus is the interaction between Ephrata officers, municipal officials, and citizens.

Hildebrand said officers will often drop in to the township meeting room to work on reports, meet with citizens, or simply have their lunch.

The visibility of the police has seemed to quell those who were opposing the change in department coverage.

“A lot of people are saying they see them a lot and are pleasantly surprised,” said Hildebrand.

“I’m personally not getting any negative calls,” said Good. He did note that the one complaint the borough received panned out not to be founded.

While Shumaker and McKim handle the operations, Harvey enjoys being the guy on the street, addressing community and church groups and hosting Scouts and school children on tours of the department.

Traditional neighborhood meeting watches have given way to the “community watch” of social media.

The department gets information out via Facebook posts often quickly shared by citizens and media outlets alike. He credits that rapid sharing of information to quicker crime resolution.

He also urges citizens in all four municipalities to call the department if they believe something suspicious is happening.

“When I give a talk, I’ll said if something makes the hair on your back rustle, call us,” said Harvey. “Call us early on.”

“Nothing is more frustrating than having someone say they don’t want to bother us,” Shumaker said.

All in all, both men look forward to a long and successful partnership with Adamstown and West Cocalico.

“Both municipalities have bent over backwards to make it a good working environment for my team,” Shumaker said.

“It’s been a pleasant surprise,” the chief said.

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