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Upper Burrell police go 24/7

| Friday, March 15, 2013, 1:01 a.m.

For the first time in its history, Upper Burrell has a full-time police force.

Chief Ken Pate said the last of three recently hired part-time officers finished training and came on duty this week, meaning the department now is staffed 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

“We've been planning this for a few years now, upgrading equipment and vehicles to prepare,” Pate said. “The guys have all the tools they need.”

Pate said the township police force was formed in 1964 but it never has been staffed fully enough to provide 24/7 coverage until now.

Previously, state police from the Kiski Valley station in Washington Township covered Upper Burrell calls when no township officer was on duty.

“I appreciate the state police,” Pate said. “We're still going to work with them with any assistance they can give us or we can give them.”

Pate said the push to become a full-time department began under his predecessor, Ed Kruse, who retired in 2011. Pate was hired as a patrolman in 2007, was promoted to sergeant and then replaced Kruse as chief.

The township has one other full-time officer, Sgt. Robert Speer. There are six part-time officers: Charles Lutz, Steffan Shaw, Philip Huth, David Endlich, Dennis Rupert and Chad Meyers.

Pate said one officer will be on duty at all times. The township will continue to work with surrounding departments, especially Lower Burrell.

Pate and Supervisors Chairman Ross Walker said there are a variety of benefits to having a full-time township department — namely quicker response times.

“The state police are (based) in the next township,” Walker said. “We now have police much closer. The calls will be answered very quickly.”

“It increases police presence, that's the most beneficial thing,” Pate said. “It's a better service to the residents.”

Walker said supervisors are pleased they were able to expand police services without raising taxes. He estimated the force accounts for about a third of the nearly $1 million budget.

“To hit 24-hour coverage is wonderful because we did it with a careful juggling of the township assets,” Walker said. “No increase in taxes, but a big increase in services.”

Pate said it will be helpful to have an officer available at all times for follow-up calls, rather than having to wait for one to come on duty.

Pate said he's unaware of any types of crime increasing in Upper Burrell.

Pate attributes an increase in township police responses to the fact that the force has worked more hours, picking up calls that otherwise would've been handled by state police.

“Like any area, we're having problems with drugs, namely heroin. We've had a few overdoses in the past few weeks,” Pate said. “And theft cases. That directly correlates to the drugs.”

Once the department has been handling all calls for a year, Pate will have a better handle on crime trends.

“He's doing a fabulous job,” Walker said. “We thought Ed Kruse would be a hard act to follow, but Ken's right up there with the best of them. I'm so happy with Ken.”

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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