Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Some people in Sumner County want their sheriff to be able to hire more deputies after a rise in burglaries in their rural neighborhood.
About 20 people who live near Peck were at this week's Sumner County Commission meeting to push for an increased law enforcement presence in the area.
When Shawn Hanson leaves his auto repair shop in Derby every night, the first thing he has to do when he gets back to his Sumner County home is make sure nobody has broken in.
"When you think about all the way home, 'Am I going to be the one that got hit today,' and everyone in our neighborhood is feeling that way, they need to do something about it," Hanson said.
That constant worry is why Hanson is leading a group of people who live in a rural neighborhood just south of Peck, which sits along Meridian at the Sedgwick-Sumner County line, in pushing county commissioners to give the sheriff's office more money to hire additional deputies.
The area has seen a sharp increase in traffic since the Kansas Star Casino opened about two miles to the east of the neighborhood a year ago.
"We pay taxes for the reason of having EMS and fire and police protection," Hanson said. "We need it."
People who live in the area, including Sumner County Sheriff Darren Chambers, say they realize traffic and crime are likely to increase any time a business that draws thousands of daily visitors opens.
"It could be a Walmart; it could be anything," Chambers said. "It could be a large Home Depot, but you've got a bigger infrastructure there."
That is part of why Chambers asked commissioners in July for enough funding in the 2013 budget to hire six additional patrol deputies. The funding was not included in the budget.
"I've got the oil fracking coming in on the south, the casino coming into the north and with all that together, my thought was, 'It's going to be an increase in crime,'" Chambers said.
Currently, there are usually only two deputies on patrol at a time in Sumner County. The county has more than 1,100 square miles to cover.
Anne Lassey, who also lives near Peck, said the main concern she and her neighbors have is what that does for response times if both deputies are taking care of calls on the other side of the county.
"They're frightened sometimes to the point of, 'Should I even go grocery shopping now or should I stay home until my husband gets home,'" Lassey said. "And we have a lot of people out here who are retired or widowed and they're very concerned with safety."
The group pushing for funding feels the concerns have been heard and they are hopeful that they have opened what will be a productive dialogue with county commissioners.
"I think they did listen," Lassey said. "I think they had an open mind to what our concern was and I think it was the beginning."