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Police work a group effort in small towns

Law enforcement agencies in Stark County must work together to ensure area communities are provided with the best services available.

The Stark County Sheriff's Department contracts with smaller cities in the area to provide law enforcement where it wouldn't be available otherwise, said Sheriff Clarence Tuhy.

Richardton, Taylor and Gladstone do not have their own police departments, so the Sheriff's Department is their primary law enforcement agency, he added.

"We take care of law enforcement calls, we patrol the cities, we take care of calls when we're called into the cities for vandalisms, burglaries or whatever," Tuhy said.

Deputies' time is split between patrolling rural areas and the cities they're contracted to, Tuhy said.

"We monitor that and try to spend as much time as we can," Tuhy said. "We've been averaging a pretty good amount of hours down there as far as what we're being paid in services."

He estimated deputies spend 50 to 70 percent of their time in smaller cities in Stark County. In return for their services, each city pays a monthly compensation fee. The amount is agreed upon by county and city officials, he added.

The Sheriff's Department had contracted services to Belfield for a few years, but recently ceased their contract due to changes in law enforcement there.

Joe Schmidt was hired as the Belfield police chief in December. Richard Carney was hired as an officer there March 15.

"We were contracted through Stark County and now we are just a police department of our own," Schmidt said. "That's not saying that the county still doesn't help out all the time, but as far as the contract, we are just the police department for the town here with two officers."

Tuhy said they now provide Belfield with services similar to the city of South Heart, which also has its own police chief.

"Lets say they can't get a hold of South Heart chief of police and there's a call -- we'll get called and we'll respond," Tuhy said. "If they ask for backup, we do respond for backup."

Ceasing the contract means the county no longer receives the $2,236 per month Belfield paid for their services.

"It's just easier for us and it's a better fit for the town because there wasn't any officers from the Stark County Sheriff's Office that was living here in Belfield, so now when the city needs help, officers are right here in town," Schmidt said.

Tuhy says it hasn't had a major effect on their operations.

"It's not really changing much, we've still got the workload and we still assist in patrolling and assisting them anyway," he said.