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The partnership between the Piatt County Sheriff’s Department and the Village of Bement to provide police coverage for the town has gone smoothly, and Sheriff David Hunt thinks it could soon be expanded to more than the current 20 hours per week.
Hunt gave an update to the Bement Area Chamber of Commerce meeting on Jan. 3, and said as the department hires staff it should be able to increase its presence in Bement. The two entities signed a one-year agreement last May.
“We were kind of short-staffed at the time so we decided we would provide 20 hours (a week) of police service, and later on will provide 40 hours later when we get fully staffed,” said Hunt.
The hiring of several deputies in recent months may allow the sheriff’s department to expand past that 20-hour mark, said Hunt. When a ninth full-time deputy is hired later this year, the contract could expand to 40 hours by late summer.
Bement Mayor Mollie Stevens has been satisfied with the contract so far.
“I think its been a successful partnership so far. We’ve had a lot better reaction time to calls,” said Stevens, explaining that officers were coming from Decatur and Champaign to patrol the town when it had it’s own police department.
She also feels it is better to have trained law enforcement professionals in charge of Bement’s coverage, as opposed to elected village officials.
“It was not to our advantage for mayors to be police commissioners,” added Stevens.
Hunt said most of the crime in Bement has been burglaries, which the department is attempting to address. One burglar was caught during daylight hours by Hunt and one of his deputies, who were on a routine patrol.
He also encouraged village residents to call his office at 217-762-7822 if they have concerns or suggestions.
“If people have any issues or problems, they’re welcome to call the Sheriff’s office and talk to us about what needs to be done, so we can provide better service to the village of Bement,” said Hunt. He added that vacation checks can also be made if the department knows when residents will be out of town.
Chamber President Tabitha Elder gave an economic development update. Following up on a development plan that was generated last year, she said the chamber is using that document to achieve various goals in the areas of housing, retail/industrial development, business retention, community development (including entertaining, recreation and tourism) and infrastructure.
Elder said the BACC is also working on a publication that will be mailed to all Piatt County residents and businesses this spring. It will include important information and dates regarding Bement-area events, including recreational and tourism opportunities.