It began with three words at the end of a presentation – We need help.
Those were the words, again, of Fortville Police Chief Bill Knauer.
I say again because for the third or fourth consecutive year, Knauer walked to the podium, gave his annual report to the Fortville Town Council, and, sadly, ended it with a plea for more officers.
In case you were wondering, Fortville currently has nine officers on its roster, not counting Knauer. Current data, forecasts and studies have told Knauer, town council and the general public that is not enough and 15 full-time road officers are required.
That is the easy part.
The hard part, which nobody has been able to find an answer to either through neglect of searching or just because there is no solution, is how to fund one officer, much less six more.
Trust me, I get nobody wants to pay higher taxes, especially after residents in Hancock County were forced to pay for a new jail after telling their elected officials no through a referendum.
I also understand wholeheartedly that the timing couldn’t be any worse, as Fortville officials dumped trash fees and service back onto the residents after absorbing the cost for years.
However, I also know that with three more subdivisions set to come online this year, a school district has seen record growth and continues to project growth and Amazon’s facility nearing competition, something has to happen.
Regardless of what any public official feels or will tell you publicly, public safety is not something that you can stick your head in the sand and ignore, and it is not something that can be privatized.
Trash service? Okay.
Public safety? You’re kidding yourself.
When there is a fire or a disturbance, residents expect emergency personnel to respond, and, while Fortville’s police department has done an outstanding job of working with the hand they’ve been dealt, that hand is starting to grow tired.
All one has to do is look around at the news and see we have a public safety crisis in neighboring communities that will boil over into Fortville and surrounding areas before too long.
I maintain the botched robbery turned homicide a few years ago at the Dollar General in Cumberland should have served as a wake up call to Hancock County officials that their area is not immune to serious crime.
If not that, then the SWAT standoff at the Stonecrest Apartments in Fortville where officers recovered drugs and other items that should not be in an apartment, should serve as a wake-up call.
Or, what about when Fortville officer Matthew Fix was shot in the line of duty?
Still not convinced?
Maybe, Knauer’s words that there is only one officer to patrol the town during the night will serve as a wake-up?
Or, the fact that every day, Fortville’s bravest are dealing with an ever increasing mental health issue with its residents?
The time has come for actions and solutions.
No longer can public safety be kicked down the road, especially when the town council has fallen over itself to wrap its arms around a riverfront district to hand out more liquor licenses in the near future.
Members of the town council have said they are serious about working with Knauer and solving this issue. I would sincerely hope that is the case, and residents should do their part to hold their elected officials accountable to ensure this happens.
The safety and security of the residents of Fortville is the foremost responsibility of government and they keep dropping the ball.
Enough is enough.