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Union Twp. coping with fewer officers

Union Township Police are learning to adjust in the wake of police layoffs that nearly cut the force in half.

On Sept. 8, the board of supervisors cut the township’s nine-man squad to five when it laid off two full-time and two part-time police officers to help offset a projected $135,000 shortfall in next year’s budget.

Chief Paul Bleichner said the force had only five officers when he worked as a patrolman years ago.

Covering the 14-square-mile township became difficult with diminished manpower, Bleichner said.

Now, the chief faces the same shorthanded problem.

Since the cutbacks occurred, Bleichner’s officers have occasionally had problems responding to more than one incident on separate sides of the township.

“We’re a good 15 minutes apart to get one from one end to the other,” he said.

At times, only one officer is on duty, the chief said.

“We had a call one of those nights they couldn’t answer,” Bleichner said. “Somebody was dumping something into one of our creeks. We had a hit and run… about 4 miles apart.”

Early Saturday morning, police learned 16 locks were cut off storage units at Hufnagel Self Storage in Finleyville. While an officer responded there, a report of a burglary at the Railroad Inn near Route 837 in Elrama came in.

Bleichner said the incidents occurred when the police were switching from two officers to only one.

The reported crimes were more than five miles apart and it took longer than usual for the officer to respond, Bleichner said.

The chief said he hopes that scenario doesn’t repeat itself.

“You’re always worried about that because this township is so big,” he said.

“We’ve been pretty good so far,” he said of the latest police coverage. “We’re trying to do the best we can. There are a few times when we miss some calls.”


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