Funds to pay for Middletown’s license plate readers, 2 more Ross Twp. police officers

State money is flowing to Butler County to help police agencies battle violent crime and so far Middletown and Ross Twp. have received a slice of $58 million earmarked for the cause.

Ross Twp. should be able to hire two new full-time police officers with the $235,244 grant it received from the Ohio Violent Crime Reduction Grant Program. Middletown culled $33,000 for its new license plate reader camera system.

To date, the Gov. Mike DeWine has awarded $23 million to 83 Ohio law enforcement agencies. A total of $58 million will be awarded as part of the grant program overall.

“Violent crime not only impacts public safety but also quality of life, and I am committed to doing all we can to protect Ohio’s citizens from violence,” DeWine said. “By giving local law enforcement agencies these additional resources, they’ll be able to do more to prevent crime so that community members feel safe.”

Ross Twp. Police Chief Burt Roberts told the Journal-News it costs roughly $100,000 per officer including salary and benefits so this would cover the first year and then some. He believes he can sustain the expense and they need to beef up their force. This would bring the full-time complement to 10 officers.

“We’ve had a few shootings in the past couple years, our calls for domestics have gone up, mental, overdoses all those, those have tripled at least in the past two years since the pandemic,” Roberts said. “All of our statistics have doubled or tripled in the past two years.

Roberts gave statistics about the jump in criminal activity from 2020 to 2021:

  • Calls for service jumped from 4,101 to 7,140;
  • Calls involving violence increased from 82 to 150;
  • Calls involving drugs, suicides, and emotionally disturbed persons increased from 19 to 74;
  • Shots fired doubled from 7 to 15;
  • Domestic violence calls went from 63 to 107;
  • Seized weapons jumped from 2 to 27, including 5 crossbows.

Trustee Ellen Yordy said they will decide next month if they can truly afford to hire two new officers. They will need to place a police levy question on the ballot next year anyway and this issue will be part of those discussions.

They had been discussing adding one officer so “the timing couldn’t have been better.”

“Whether or not we just do a renewal, a replacement, if we raise it up, we don’t want to do that because of the school,” she said. “We don’t want people to have that tax burden on them but by the same way, if they want a police department it’s something they have to pay for.”

Middletown Police Chief David Birk said with the $33,000 boost from the state they were able to get 26 license plate readers that will be placed at key entrance points to the city. Originally they could only afford 10, “it’s going to be a game changer for us.”.

He said it is a great tool to create a network of cameras — he said several Butler County agencies are considering the cameras — so various police agencies can track people and incidents that are in the Law Enforcement Data System (LEDS).

“Say another department such as Franklin puts a stolen car in, or a suspicious vehicle with license plate, by coming through our city it red flags that,” Birk said. “Amber alerts, anything like that kind of stuff that’s put in LEDS, then we have the information and as soon as they cross over our city it immediately indicates to our officers this vehicle is in town.”

A number of county agencies such as the sheriff, Monroe and West Chester Twp. said they didn’t meet the criteria for the grant. A Monroe police spokeswoman said one of those guidelines was they “wanted areas that had a spike in violent crime that had a strategies to reduce the spike.”

First responder agencies across the county are also waiting to hear whether they will get a slice of $70 million worth of federal American Rescue Plan Act funding for the new Ohio First Responder Recruitment, Retention, and Resilience Program.

This funding is for fire and police departments and 14 agencies submitted grant applications totaling nearly $14 million

The Ohio Emergency Management Agency is disbursing the funds and Jim Dwertman told the Journal-News they are reviewing more than 500 applications and expect to begin making the awards “on a rolling basis” by month’s end.

West Chester Twp. asked for the largest amount at just more than $6 million to hire a total of 22 fulltime equivalent positions for police, fire or dispatch. It also provides for a one-time, 10% retention bonus over two years, money for mental health wellness and advertising to recruit new people.

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