YEAGERTOWN - The Mifflin County Regional Police Department serves four municipalities over a 260 square miles radius, while providing service to over 22,000 residents.
The department currently employs 14 sworn officers, who have been trained in many different fields, such as criminal investigation, narcotics, traffic safety, school resource, D.A.R.E., bicycle patrol and many other specific fields. MCRPD Officer John Miles said the area is really large, but the department only serves four of the counties fifteen municipalities.
"We serve Derry, Brown and Union townships, and Burnham Borough," Miles said.
Each of the municipalities that are served pay for patrol time and the officers on duty need to spend that amount of time in each. Miles said if an incident occurs and officers spend more time in a particular municipality the time gets adjusted accordingly for them. During patrols officers check neighborhoods and businesses.
"We do not focus our patrols on one type of area, some of the businesses that are checked are ones that have had problems or are high risk locations like schools and banks," he explained.
Miles also said these patrols give officers more opportunities to interact with residents.
"Because of how much time we get to patrol areas and since many of us live in the municipalities, we can connect with people on a more personal level," he said. "Also because of the vast area, we have opportunity to work with the other police departments that cover areas of Mifflin County."
Miles also said that with the opportunities to interact with the other departments all work well together when the situation warrants it.
"We all really try to back each other up when there is a problem," Miles said. "Our coverage area is large, but the one for state police is larger. If they have no patrols in the area when a call goes out, we will take command of the scene until the get there."
Not only does the MCRPD work in cooperation with Pennsylvania State Police but also the Granville and Armagh Township Police Departments, and the Lewistown Borough Police Department.
A normal shift includes having two to five officers in the station for a seven hour shift, there are a variety of tasks that need to be done. Sgt. Andre French said that while patrolling can take up a large amount of time during a shift, a mixture of other tasks also need to be accomplished.
"Other shift tasks can include, answering station phone calls, answer dispatch calls, speed monitoring and paper work," French said. "While all of these may not happen in a single night, a mixture is possible."
French also said officers who are conducting speed monitoring or setting up the speed traps, could be there for most or all of their shift because of the amount of time it takes to conduct the task.
"Part of the reason it takes so long is because we have to hand write all of the citations we issue," he explained. "That is how we differ from state police because they have computers and printers which allows them to type and print a citation."
French said to hand-write the tickets it takes about 10 minutes per traffic stop, but that is if there are no other problems, such as driving under the influence. French also said most of the officers at MCRPD are lenient when ticketing or targeting speeders.
"When doing speed traps we try to focus on drivers that are fast and aggressive, if possible," he said. "With the system we use the officer can choose how fast is too fast."
In the state of Pennsylvania local departments cannot use the radar gun that state police use, so MCRPD uses the Electric Non Radar Device. ENRADD accurately detects the speed of a vehicle by using small metal half-square shaped bars which are placed on the shoulders of the road directly across from each other.
"These bars have transmitters that automatically calculate the elapsed time it takes for a vehicle to pass through, then calculates the speed," French explained. "For example, a vehicle traveling 50 mph is traveling 58.64 feet per second, ENRADD calculates the amount of time the vehicle took to traverse through a three foot infrared span, then it calculates the speed of 50 mph."
A signal with the speed is then transmitted to a monitor inside the patrol car, which if the car is going over the speed the officer set, an alarm will sound.
"This system is 100 percent accurate," French said. "When we have s speed set and the beep sounds, we just need to know which car set it off and follow it until the driver pulls over."
On U.S. Highway 322 that MCRPD patrols has a maximum speed limit of 55 mph, except for a construction zone where the speed limit is 45 mph. This is another aspect of setting speed traps that allows for leniency between officers. French explained that some officers will allow drivers to travel up to 70 mph in the 55 before pulling someone over, but he again said sometimes it depends on how aggressive the driver is.
"Writing tickets for a regional system, is not done because it is a money maker. We do not pull people over arbitrarily," French explained. "Only half of the money goes to the municipality, so there is a lot of money being kept locally."
He also said that some officers will be lenient when it comes to doubling fines or adding fines for things like a dead headlight.
Officers of MCRPD believe the department is committed to the idea of regional policing, which is an effective and cost efficient method of providing police coverage to the four municipalities covered and has been meeting the various needs of those municipalities since 1993.