Junction council debates need for nighttime police presence

Published 10:33 am Monday, November 13, 2017

The number of police officers in Junction City came up for discussion during Thursday night’s regular meeting, after council member Bill McCowan brought up a desire to have an officer on duty from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

When asked why by Mayor Jim Douglas, McCowan cited various examples, including that people were at the city park “all hours of the night” and that someone was “burning Lausman Ave. up,” meaning they were driving up and down the road at night.

Douglas pointed out that if someone was hired for night-shift duty, the new person would still need two nights a week off.

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“Personally, I would rather see Merl shift the schedule around somehow,” Douglas said. “It’s going to be hard to have someone 11 a.m.-7 p.m. every day.”

He said hiring another officer would be hard under the city’s budget, as an officer can run between $75,000-80,000 a year for salary, insurance and benefits.

McCowan asked about using funding from the city’s alcohol revenues, which Chief Merl Baldwin said couldn’t be used to pay the salaries of officers, only the ABC administrator. He fills that role and the money pays a portion of his salary. It can also be used to buy equipment.

Council member Steve Martin said he felt nighttime coverage was most important.

“That’s when stuff goes on. That’s my personal opinion. When I was working here, that’s the way it was. Everything bad that went on was in the late hours,” he said. “The chief really has no choice. He’s got to work in the daytime.”

Douglas said they would look at the schedule.

Baldwin said he had spoken to one of the officers about doing some later shifts and felt it wouldn’t be an issue.

“In all actuality, our call volume has went down — our domestic violence rate has went down 60 percent in the last four years. The majority of our calls are from about 10 o’clock in the morning to about 7, 8, 9 o’clock at night,” he said.

Baldwin said he couldn’t give a reason for why the changes.

Douglas said the Boyle County Sheriff’s Office and Kentucky State Police help cover late at night through early in the morning.

“I know that the sheriff’s department has got people here every night … The state police, there’s three of them that are here quite often. We just need to inform them of where our trouble spots are,” he said.

KSP stays in the area because of it’s distance between Frankfort and London, Douglas said.

Baldwin said he is called if something more than a prowler happens and gets a report every morning.

“Some days, we may go 48 hours without a call. That’s just the nature of it,” he said.

The council had also planned to discuss a possible service agreement with the Danville 911 call center, but Douglas said the agreement was not yet finished.