Townships in danger of losing patrols from Hamilton County Sheriff's Office

HAMILTON COUNTY, OH (FOX19) - Hamilton County townships currently relying on Sheriff's deputies to patrol their communities may not see those officers come April 1 if they cannot find the money to fund the positions on their own.

Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis sent out a letter to the townships within the last week letting them know money was no long available to fund the patrols.

Sheriff Leis would not comment on camera, but did tell FOX19 that he is in direct contact with the townships affected.

The news hit especially hard in smaller communities like Whitewater, Crosby, and Harrison Townships which rely solely on the Sheriff patrols.

"It makes me scared," said Jodi Robinson of Crosby township. "Especially if it would be something that would happen to one of my kids and they didn't get here in time for whatever the emergency should be."

Robinson, like everyone else in Crosby, relies on the sheriff's department to fund the patrols that guard their streets.

"If they don't patrol our area people will start brining crimes into our neighborhood knowing we're not getting patrolled," Robinson said.

As a mom, she does not want to see the day when patrols are taken away. It's a concern many parents in other neighboring townships share.

"If there was a problem, somebody's house got broken into, anything where are the cops going to be?" mother Jennifer Eckert questioned. "How long is it going to take for somebody to get there?"

"I don't know what kind of a timeframe it would take for somebody to respond that way," Harrison Township trustee Tom Losekamp said. "They're supposed to supply services and they would but I don't know where they'd be coming from."

LoseKamp says he was blindsided by the letter from Sheriff Leis. He says according to his own math, each resident of Harrison township man, woman, and child would have to pay more than 70 dollars to fund the positions.

"While we don't spend every dollar, pretty much the coffers are emptied at the end of the year," Losekamp explained. "We're just going to have to go back and look someplace, I don't know where … trim here or there or come up with something someplace, I don't know … maybe we'll start playing the lottery."

He believes the town could scrape together enough money for the first year, but he does not feel the community could sustain the growing price tag without a levy. According to a letter sent by Leis, the cost of funding one position in 2012 would be 70,000 dollars. Then, for the next three years, the price to fund each position would increase up to the average cost of more than $87,000 dollars which includes benefits. For Harrison Township, Losekamp says they would have to multiply that number by five to retain staffing at the current levels.

"We're pretty frugal with what we do," Losekamp said. "We've gotten by with the same mileage we've had since 1939 and we've run some levees before and they've gotten defeated."

Losekamp says one option is for the smaller townships to share patrols and the costs associated with them. He is concerned however that the price will still be too high, although he's also concerned about the alternative that might come if they cannot find the money.

"While it isn't a high crime area, I think the idea of the patrols in the area going through there every day has an effect on that," Losekamp said. "That deters crime."

While the changes could impact patrols, townships would still receive basic services from the county required under Ohio law which include investigative services and 9-11 responses.

News of the cuts came as a surprise to Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune who says he had been told the changes had been pushed back until at least September. Even then, he says he was under the impression the smallest townships would be spared from the financial burden.

According to the County Administrator's recommended 2012 general fund budget, Portune says the smaller townships were to be exempt from picking up the price tag on patrols in 2012. An excerpt from the proposed budget reads as follows:

Township Finances. I have included an aggressive approach to transitioning to fully-reimbursed township patrol services for the large urban townships in the 2012 budget. To the extent that the Sheriff, township elected officials, township voters, or simply the process of citizen engagement and deliberation delay the implementation, the townships and the Board may be asked to make difficult decisions that pit public safety choices against financial sustainability.

Commissioners did, however, approve a four million dollar cut to the patrol budget for 2012. They later added two million back to the budget to help ease the transition to township-funded patrols.