Manchester Twp. reduces its level of police coverage
Manchester Township supervisors have agreed to reduce the amount of coverage the township receives from Northern York County Regional Police.
But township manager Tim James stressed it had nothing to do with the job officers are doing.
"To a person, we couldn't be more satisfied. We're absolutely thrilled with the service we get from Northern Regional," James said. "All the board members made a point to state that."
The issue, he said, were the findings of a staffing study done Chief Mark Bentzel at the direction of Northern Regional's police commission for all of the department's eight municipalities.
"The staffing study showed that we were, for lack of a better term, getting more service than we actually needed," James said.
The township was purchasing 67 units of coverage per week, but the study showed that in 2015, it needed only 63 units per week, he said.
"So the board back in March took action per our agreement with Northern Regional and put in a request to drop four units (of coverage)," James said. "We will probably see a reduction of about $120,000 (annually) in our budget."
Bentzel explained that the 67 "units" translates to 670 hours of police service per week, meaning Manchester Township has reduced its amount of weekly coverage by 40 hours.
He said he used a staffing study available through the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which relies on a formula based on the number of 911 calls in a municipality.
The numbers: The study showed that in 2015, Manchester Township was overstaffed by about 5 percent, the chief confirmed. There were 8,036 police incidents in the township in 2015, he said.
However, between Jan. 1 and the end of August, the township's call load increased by more than 10.5 percent, according to Bentzel. That translates to about 560 more calls, compared with the same time last year, he said.
Violent crime is up, drug arrests are up and prostitution arrests have increased as well, Bentzel said — much of it driven by guests at Arsenal Road motels.
"It appears we're trending up again (in crime)," the chief said. "But who can predict the future?"
At Tuesday night's Manchester Township supervisors meeting, he asked officials to modify their reduction from four units (40 hours) to two units (20 hours).
"I make recommendations to the municipalities on staffing, but ultimately the municipality decides its staffing level," Bentzel said.
"The chief presented very good reasoning," James said, but noted that township officials are constantly evaluating call-load numbers and can revisit the issue again if supervisors determine it's necessary.
Dollars and cents: On Tuesday, the supervisors voted 3-2 to stick with the four-unit reduction, rather than go with Bentzel's suggestion of a two-unit reduction James confirmed.
"The board simply ... wanted to more accurately pay for the coverage we should be staffed at," he said.
"It's a dollar-and-cents issue, and I understand those concerns," Bentzel said. "We will make adjustments accordingly, and we'll do our best to provide the best service possible to them."
The reduction takes effect Jan. 1, 2017, James said.
It won't require any layoffs, according to Bentzel, because he chose not to fill an open position while he knew Manchester Township was considering reducing its amount of coverage.
The department has 51 full-time officers, the chief said.
Busiest year ever? Bentzel said every municipality in Northern Regional's jurisdiction has seen an increase in call numbers in 2016.
"This year could be — could be — the busiest year in the history of our department," he said. "We have a lot of issues we're dealing with right now. ... There are very few times over the last 30 years that call logs for our department have show a decrease."
They include the heroin epidemic, he said. And police involvement goes beyond arresting dealers and reviving addicts who overdose, Bentzel said. Drug addiction also fuels crimes, including robbery, burglary and theft, the chief said.
Northern York County Regional Police serves eight municipalities, covers 150 square miles and serves a population of more than 66,000 people, Bentzel said.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.