Part-time protection for Brady Lake village

Steven Bushong

Michelle Marney, who has lived on Cox Avenue in Brady Lake for more than eight years, said she has yet to witness criminal activity on her street, which intersects state Route 59.

The crime rate in the village is low, as Marney’s observation may indicate. According to Brady Lake Police’s 2006 year-end report, the village had three thefts. The Kent State Police Department reported 163 thefts on campus the same year.

The village also reported five fights, two assaults and one case of domestic violence. The most common problem police confront is neighbor disputes.

But the low crime rate isn’t because the village has an extensive police force. In fact, it sometimes doesn’t have one at all.

“We don’t?” Marney asked.

The village does not have a 24-hour police force. It’s mostly volunteer, like the fire department, and has been since an auxiliary force was established in 1969.

“I noticed I never see them at night,” Marney said.

The police are scheduled during the night on occasion. Police Chief James Woolf said scheduling is a matter of when his officers have extra time to work. Many have full-time jobs outside the police car.

“We don’t have a lot of crime here,” Woolf said. “Brady Lake used to have reputation for being a bad area with a lot of drugs, and it’s changed in the recent years.”

When the village’s own officers go home, the town of 500 people is patrolled by the Portage County Sheriff. Regardless, many residents would like to see a 24-hour police force implemented.

Regardless of the village’s quiet nature, former Councilman Ted Holland said it’d be good to have full-time service just in case.

“If word gets out you don’t have protection, it makes you a target,” he said. “If you were walking on campus, and there was no security on campus, would you feel safe?”

But Holland knows from his 15 years on Village Council that employing a full-time force would be impossible. The village, he said, doesn’t have the money.

Brady Lake allocated $50,000 of its $350,000 budget last year to its police force. The money was for the salaries of five paid officers, all of their equipment, training and other police essentials.

The village, with only a few businesses, does not have a sufficient tax base to establish a full-time force. To do so, Mayor Hal Lehman said the community would have to grow. But currently, only one house is under construction and the rest of the square-mile village is well-developed.

Lehman said a full-time department would be helpful, as the village’s force is often requested by the sheriff in neighboring Franklin Township for mutual aid calls — mostly traffic control, rarely crime.

During a September interview, Woolf said the last time he personally dealt with criminal activity in Brady Lake was a couple weeks back, when an officer incidentally found two marijuana plants on the back porch of a house while he was next door assisting the fire department.

Woolf said it’s difficult to say if a full-time police force is necessary in Brady Lake, but he wouldn’t mind seeing one.

“Whoever wants to commit some crimes in Brady Lake, I want them to know that there is a police officer out there looking for them right now, rather than them coming out here and knowing there isn’t a police officer on duty,” he said. “Who’s to say crime won’t go up here?”

For now, however, Woolf and his 15 officers are keeping an apparent check on crime.

Contact assistant news editor Steven Bushong at [email protected].