By Colleen Mahoney
The Springville Police Department will be celebrating its 15-year anniversary in September. The Department, which consists of 10 part-time officers and a police chief, was re-established in September 2001.
Springville Mayor William Krebs said having a part-time police department gives the village more control over when officers are on patrol. The department is responsible for patrolling festivals and events in town, such as Dairy Fest and Pageant of the Bands, but Krebs said officers are also scheduled on Wednesdays during auction time and Friday nights during football season.
“That’s the advantage to having a part-time police department in the village … scheduling police officers as needed,” Krebs said.
Police Chief John Fox has been with the department since its inception, and though he’s retiring in September, he said the importance of a community-minded police department cannot be overlooked. A former sergeant with the Erie County Sheriff’s Department, Fox said his officers can often be found walking in local businesses, both patrolling and engaging with village residents.
During the early years of the department, then-mayor Gary Eppolito called Fox to let him know one of his officers was getting a haircut while on duty. Fox spoke with the officer, who said he wasn’t getting a haircut, he had walked into the barbershop to introduce himself and began a conversation with the barber.
“He said he had taken a seat while talking to the barber because he wanted to get to know the business owners in town,” Fox recalled. “It’s always been like that … these are the people we’re looking out for.”
Fox said the Springville officers still make it a point to interact with community members and business owners, and Krebs noted that as another positive to having a village department.
“We have the same officers, month after month, getting to know the village, the residents, the businesses,” Krebs said. “That’s not something we can guarantee with the Sheriff’s Office.”
According to Fox, the officers have a good working-relationship with the community, and have always answered calls for help. The department has two patrol vehicles and two New York State-certified bicycle patrol officers who share one police bike.
The department started out with a K-9 partner and NYS certified dog handler, David Hock, who passed away in March. Fox said there aren’t currently any plans to reinstate the K-9 unit, though he’s unsure what the incoming officer in charge will do.
There are five officers currently on the roster who have been with the department since 2001 in addition to Fox. In July, the department’s first female officer was hired.
Officers are required to be serving with another police department to be hired. Krebs said those requirements help to keep the cost low, as officers are trained in another department.
“Public safety, which includes the police and fire departments, is the largest part of general funds [for municipalities] and Springville is no different,” Krebs said. “We have the advantage of having officers trained elsewhere.”
Roughly six years ago, Krebs said, the Village Board of Trustees performed a data analysis on coverage from both the Springville Police Department and the Erie County Sheriff’s Office serving the area. The board was pleased with the data and the amount of coverage they were receiving.
While Krebs was unsure if they’d perform another analysis, he said the board would likely take a look when they review their contract with the Erie County Sheriff’s Office.
In 1980, the Springville Police Department was disbanded when the village of Springville signed a contract with the Sheriff’s Office. The village spoke with the Sheriff’s Office in 2000, when they needed more patrolling, but found the addition of more officers to be cost prohibitive.
The Board of Trustees then established a committee to look into the feasibility of bringing back the Springville Police Department, and on Sept. 1, 2001 it was officially reinstated.
Since then, the Springville Police Department has logged more than 1,000 calls and writes about 500 traffic tickets a year. Springville is the only village in Erie County that has its own part-time police department plus dedicated street patrol from the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, Krebs said.