Excessive police calls prompt ordinance review

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BELLOWS FALLS — Does the Bellows Falls Village Police Department get too many nuisance calls? And should it charge landlords or homeowners for what it deems excessive calls?

The Bellows Falls village ordinance committee will try to tackle that issue in the coming weeks, armed with information from Police Chief Ron Lake.

Statistics compiled by Lake showed that one apartment building, which he wouldn't name, generated 154 calls in the past three years.

The small village police department has 3,600 calls a year, or about 10 calls a day. There are 833 residences in the village.

"People need help, people are confused," said Lake. "People are looking for answers. We have to satisfy people's needs."

But whether they were nuisance calls, Lake was hesitant to apply that label. "Definitely, some qualify as a nuisance," he said.

"We answer calls, if a person is in need of help," said Lake, who said his department would continue to answer any calls it receives.

"We answer questions. We have one individual in this village that calls the Bellows Falls Police Department when FACTV is not transmitting," Lake said, noting the person had asked the police officers on duty to run down to the village trustee meetings to make sure the meeting was going on.

The police department did that a few times, the chief said. "But we've stopped doing that."

People will call the police department if they hear water running, or if they hear an alarm going off, the chief said.

Deborah Wright, the Bellows Falls village president, said Lake's recent report to the village trustees will be mulled over by the village ordinance committee, which has already had one meeting about the issue and will take it up again next Wednesday.

Wright said that Jonathan Wright, a village trustee, had requested the information.

"We don't want people to stop calling," Deborah Wright said.

Wright said she suspected some of the calls came from lonely people, and that the police department was the only available office to call at night.

"Nobody answers the phone at the TV station at night," she said.

"I'm sure there are 'frequent flyer calls,'" she said. "It's quality of life, it's not burned toast," she said.

Members of the village ordinance committee will take up the issues under the category of "offenses against person and property.," she said. The committee's next meeting is July 25.

She said the Bellows Falls Fire Department has, since it became a volunteer department late last year, has stopped responding to ambulance calls. She said with a volunteer department it wasn't possible, even though she said the fire department would often respond faster than Golden Cross Ambulance.

Both Lake and Municipal Manager Wendy Harrison said they still wanted people to call the police department if they needed help.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com or 802 254-2311, ext. 154.


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