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Police supporters meeting in Ford City

| Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, 12:16 a.m.

Opponents of a borough committee recommendation to close the Ford City Police Department are sponsoring a public meeting on Tuesday to bolster support for keeping the force intact.

The meeting is at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Latin American Club at 1218 Third Avenue.

“The business owners are really concerned for the safety of their business and the welfare of the elderly and children,” meeting organizer Cody Atherton said.

Atherton, 19, is the son of Ford City's top police officer, Sgt. John Atherton. He and others involved in putting the town hall-style meeting together said they want to focus on saving the police department and preserving the borough's quality of life for residents.

The meeting will include presentations from police in neighboring communities, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 39 and other law enforcement officials. They will discuss the potential impact of doing away with the police department.

“The public should be informed about what the costs are to maintain a police department, the importance of protection from the criminal element, the effects on an elderly community and response time,” said Councilman Gene Banks, who opposes closing the department.

The council's three person police committee recommended last month that the borough disband its force in favor of coverage from state police at Kittanning. Committee members said the borough can no longer afford its own force.

“A lot people are concerned about the state police coming in,” Cody Atherton said. “They patrol all the way from Etna to New Bethlehem. If there's a call, they will prioritize it. But there's no guaranteed response time.”

Steve Cippel, operations manager of Klingensmith's Drug Stores, is one of the people concerned about life without a police force in Ford City. He said in recent months, his company's Ford City business has dealt with drug use in its parking lots, shoplifting and vehicle break-ins.

“We're 100 percent behind the police,” he said. “I don't even want to think about what would happen if they weren't here.”

Council Vice President Jerry Miklos, a member of the police committee, said he would try to attend the meeting. Since his committee made the recommendation to disband the force, he said he has talked to some residents who agree with the recommendation and others who have concerns.

“I think the important thing is we get the facts out and then people can make an intelligent decision,” he said.

Julie E. Martin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1315, or jmartin@tribweb.com.

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