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Indian Trail turns to off-duty officers

Last week, Indian Trail town council members considered ways to beef up law enforcement's presence in town.

They looked at big ideas, such as establishing a “Union County Sheriff's Office – Indian Trail Division,” and smaller changes, such as hiring one additional officer to handle traffic complaints and animal control.

The council voted 3-2, with Mayor John Quinn breaking a tie, to use budgeted but unspent law enforcement money to pay off-duty sheriff's officers to work during special events and peak times. Council members Jeff Goodall and Gary D'Onofrio voted no. Shirley Howe was absent.

The question of public safety has been ongoing.

Some board members have argued the town may be better served by starting its own police department. Others have said that contracting with the sheriff's office is cheaper and the officers provide excellent service.

Indian Trail now pays about $1 million annually to the Union County Sheriff's Office, which provides 11 additional officers for the town. The town will hire two more officers this fiscal year, and recently signed a five-year agreement to continue contracting sheriff's officers.

Council member Dan Schallenkamp and Sgt. Chase Coble, a Union County sheriff's officer who oversees the Indian Trail force, talked at Tuesday night's meeting about services the sheriff's office could provide, including setting up an entire Indian Trail division.

Goodall agreed the town needs more officers and patrol. But he said if the town wants to start its own police department, it should do so “sooner than later.”

D'Onofrio said he was concerned about recent violent crime, but wanted the town to research what level of law enforcement service is needed before approving ideas presented Tuesday night.

Goodall and D'Onofrio have said the town should pay an independent consultant to study how best to approach public safety.

The ideas presented last week came out of a three-hour meeting in August that included Schallenkamp, Mayor John Quinn, Coble and Town Manager Ed Humphries.

Schallenkamp said they talked about how to maximize the town's contract with the sheriff's office.

“The overall message was the sheriff's department is willing and able to do whatever needs to be done to serve the citizens of Indian Trail,” Schallenkamp said. “The only thing holding them back is direction and funding from council.”

Schallenkamp said he'd rather move forward ideas from the meeting than wait for more research on public safety in Indian Trail.

“Let's take what we have today and move forward,” he said. “(Let's) equip the law enforcement officers we have today with the tools that they're asking for.”

The group that met in August came up with four ideas:

Hiring off-duty officers at $20 an hour for extra manpower on special occasions, such as Halloween night, and peak traffic times.

Hiring special purpose officers who would focus on community service, animal control and traffic complaints.

Working with the sheriff's office to find a permanent space for the Indian Trail sheriff's officers. Now, they work out of a room in the Indian Trail Town hall and four rooms of donated office space in the Old Hickory Business Park.

Providing a tour of the Union County Sheriff's Office to Indian Trail's new Public Safety Committee members, a group of residents who will advise the town council on public safety matters.

Coble told the council on Tuesday that the officers assigned to Indian Trail were on board with incorporating the town's new logo and slogans, which the council formally adopted Tuesday, into law enforcement publicity.

He said he'd like to put the new town graphics on patrol cars assigned to sheriff's officers in Indian Trail.