Almost two years after Nazareth’s mayor and Council began researching an alternate police service, patience is wearing thin.
The status of borough police -- and whether it should contract with or join neighboring Colonial Regional Police -- is an ongoing issue. The proposed 2013 borough budget calls for hiring one additional full-time officer and purchasing a new police SUV.
Korine Behler complained during Council’s workshop Thursday night about “chaos” involving an intoxicated person and a fight across the street from her home. She said no borough officers were on duty and that the response time for state police, who were covering the borough, was slow and inadequate.
“It happens every day,” said Mayor Fred Daugherty Jr. He said he and Council “are trying to address your concerns.”
Behler described in detail how she watched three people beginning at 11:30 last Friday night. One, a male, was “completely drunk,” was walking in the middle of the street but then “couldn’t get up.” The same male, she said, got into the driver’s seat of a car.
She called police and discovered no borough officers were on duty and that state police were covering Nazareth that night -- a night she went without sleep, she said.
Twenty-five minutes went by and the male in question was throwing up. She said that when a state police cruiser finally arrived, a trooper spoke to the people outside, asking from the cruiser if everything was all right.
A woman in the group said “yes” and the cruiser pulled away, Behler said.
The police “could have seen vomit” on the streets, she said. After police left, the intoxicated male got back into the car.
A little more than 24 hours later -- around 4:30 a.m. Sunday -- two males were fighting across the street, Behler said. Again, no borough officers were on duty. She went back to sleep, and 45 minutes later state police arrived.
”What if they were fighting with a knife out there,” she said in reference to the delayed response time, adding that police who called her later said they had to come from Williams Township.
Police Chief Thomas Trachta said a borough officer was working last Friday night -- but on DUI duties in the region covered under a state grant.
Behler also attended Council’s Nov. 26 Police Committee meeting, when she noted, “We have seven full-time Highway Department employees. Our priorities are on the road, and not on our safety?”
Trachta said he is striving for two officers on duty -- 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The two full-time officers currently with the department work together during the day. There are six part-time officers, most of whom work for other Lehigh Valley departments, Trachta said.
“For six hours I have an officer by himself,” Trachta explained, rhetorically adding, “Do I want to tell an officer’s family that he was out there by himself and something bad happened?”
He continued, “A full-time department -- which I know is not realistic because of the money -- but I’d like to see two officers on duty 24/7 and I think it’s obtainable. There are 14 bars in Nazareth. You need someone to watch your back. The days of solo patrol have to be over. It will cost money, but it’s a safety thing. You can’t put a price on a cop’s life.”
According to council president Dan Chiavaroli, Upper Nazareth Township has ended talks about merging the two departments.
“We’re still exploring several options,” Chiavaroli said. “We put in the budget for one full-time officer, because that could potentially happen. But depending on our options, we might not hire that full-time officer. This is a process, and this tends to be the way government works. It’s painfully slow.”
Carl Fischl, the newest member of Council, said keeping the Nazareth Borough Police Department intact will raise property taxes 8 to 10 mills.
“It’s going to cost you a lot of money,” he noted. “A mill costs $25 per household. A 5-mill increase is $125. For some people, that’s pocket change. For some people, that’s hard to make. If you want the real deal, you’re going 8-10 mills. Who wants to pay that out there?”
Anesa Dunbar is willing to part with a larger chunk of her paycheck if, in turn, she receives peace of mind.
“Money is an issue. Money will always be an issue,” Dunbar said. “I’m a single mother. But am I willing to pay to make sure my son is safe? Yes. All I want to see is that I live in a city that is safe… What are we going to do about it? What options do we have?”
One resident offered a suggestion and a rare moment of praise.
"I think you’ve been working very, very hard and that you do have the best interest of the residents in Nazareth at heart," said Becky Butz. "But we must deal with the reality of this situation. I honestly feel we cannot afford our own police department. I believe you should re-open negotiations again with Colonial Regional Police. [Chief Roy Seiple] showed you how this could work. We would be part of a well-organized and well-managed department. This is definitely the way to go."
Butz noted for the record that she recently toured Colonial Regional's headquarters on Brodhead Road.
"Not to be smart… they have four TVs."
Nazareth Borough Council will meet tonight (Monday, Dec. 2) for its last meeting of 2012. The meeting starts at 7.