TREMONT — Sheriff Scott Kane of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department discussed the law enforcement presence in Tremont with town residents at the Tremont Select Board meeting Sept. 19. The visit came after residents expressed concern to the town about crime in the area and the level of law enforcement in their town. Residents voiced their concerns, asked questions and discussed the possibility of forming a neighborhood watch.
Residents spoke to the sheriff and board members about a lack of crime reporting in the town, saying that people do not always report crimes to the sheriff’s department, which prevents the department from investigating the issue. Sheriff Kane agreed, saying that this is an issue that his department struggles with.
“One of the things that we always struggle with, people will see something and they may tell their neighbor and they may tell their aunt or their uncle or their friends or something, but they don’t tell us,” said Sheriff Kane. “I think societally that people don’t want to get involved in other people’s business.”
Sheriff Kane said that this is due to the fact that if people give information on a crime, they may then have to aid in the investigation and sentencing by giving statements or testifying. This often discourages citizens from reporting crimes.
Residents also had questions for the sheriff’s department about how the money paid by Tremont for patrol services affects the department’s budget, and whether other towns in the county benefit from Tremont’s funding. Currently, Tremont pays the sheriff’s department for 45 patrol hours per week, consisting of seven and a half hour shifts.
“It’s money in and money out, the expenses that it costs us to have that deputy we charge Tremont,” said Sheriff Kane. “The other towns in Hancock County do not benefit in that sense from what you’re paying for – you get your 45 hours out of my staff.”
Due to department staffing shortages, patrols have decreased slightly and are down roughly 10 hours per week to about 35 hours of patrol. Residents asked the sheriff about anything people in the town could do to help the department. One resident suggested that the town implement a neighborhood watch, and asked Sheriff Kane how they might implement that.
The sheriff had much to discuss on the topic of neighborhood watches and went over some of the pros and cons with residents at the meeting.
“Neighborhood watches are great,” Sheriff Kane said, “but what scares me about those is some people think OK, I’m part of a neighborhood watch, now all of a sudden, I’m a law enforcement officer, and they bite off something that they really shouldn’t be biting into.”
Sheriff Kane did say that if the town was really interested in creating a neighborhood watch, he would help them to set it up and make sure it was being done in the correct way
“If there was interest enough to have a neighborhood watch that we should have one of us come down, and if there was a group of people, we can explain exactly how that process works and what it’s all about,” he said.
Select Board Chair Jamie Thurlow mentioned that he had heard residents discussing their desire to have a town constable, which Tremont has had in the past but does not currently have.
“I’ve heard people recently mention like a constable, you know, like there used to be,” said Thurlow. “Someone just local more or less just to filter out a lot of what’s going on and to talk to, people could reach out to as well.”
Thurlow encouraged the concerned residents to get more information on forming a neighborhood watch if they were interested in it, and that it could be put on an agenda for a future meeting when the sheriff could come back and give more information on the topic.
“Reach out and get the information from Scott [Sheriff Kane] or from whoever, and if you get a group of people who are interested in doing it, then you know contact Jesse and we’ll set up, you know, put it on an agenda, and then have someone [from the sheriff’s department] come back and explain the whole process.”
Sheriff Kane said that if the creation of a neighborhood watch is done well, communicated properly and set up with the sheriff department’s help, it can be a good way to help strengthen community relations.
“It’s really a good project and it really, really helps with community relations,” Sheriff Kane said. “They get a better chance to know who their law enforcement people are, and the law enforcement people get to know who the citizens are.”
The conversation between residents, the board and the sheriff was only a discussion on what a neighborhood watch might look like in Tremont and the steps that residents should take if they were to create one. No official decision was made on this matter by the board.