Cincinnati – by Amber Hunt and Bowdeya Tweh
The police department in Arlington Heights – a village that area motorists for years had branded a speed trap before two of its officials were convicted with pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayers’ fines – has disbanded, tapping the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office with patrolling the tiny village.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, who called for the village’s dissolution in 2012, on Friday applauded the move, saying it was long overdue.
“You get to a point where it just doesn’t make sense anymore,” Deters said. “I think they’ve taken a hard look at what they’re doing out there, and if they’re letting the sheriff do it now, they made the right call.”
Sheriff Jim Neil told The Enquirer the contract took effect Friday. He said the village is the fourth to contract with the county, joining North Bend, Silverton and Lincoln Heights. With fewer than 800 residents, Arlington Heights is the smallest of the four.
One of Arlington Heights’ former police officers applied to join the county department and was sworn in Thursday, Neil said. Former Police Chief Kristin Heimpold also was offered a job, but “she decided to go in another direction,” he said.
Former Arlington Heights Mayor Cody Gertz said the agreement won’t mark a dramatic change from what residents saw last year: The department already relied on sheriff’s deputies to help with patrols, he said, but the new arrangement makes the agreement official for three years.
The move comes three months after former village Deputy Clerk Laura Jarvis was sentenced for her role in the theft of more than $260,000 in traffic fines. Jarvis and her mother – Donna Covert, the village’s former clerk – each were convicted after state auditors uncovered that the pair had failed to deposit fines into a village bank account over a span of several years.
The women have been ordered to pay restitution.
Before the mother-daughter duo were arrested for pocketing fines, Arlington Heights had a reputation as a speed trap, collecting big bucks from motorists passing through the community that covers less than a square mile along I-75.
Despite being the smallest community in the county, Arlington Heights managed to rank as the busiest mayor’s court in the region – and one of the busiest in the entire state – because of the inordinate number of traffic tickets issued by its officers.
The Enquirer reported in 2007 that 93 percent of the 3,596 cases that came through the mayor’s court the previous year were for traffic tickets. At the time, police and village officials protested the “speed trap” label because, they said, officers made a point to sit in plain view rather than hide in bushes or otherwise obscure themselves.
Deters on Friday said “speed trap” was an appropriate description.
“Basically, they were setting up speed traps on I-75 to fund the municipal workings of that village – which they then stole,” he said. “I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s something off about a village that’s maybe a mile long setting up speed traps to raise money that then is used to fund a bunch of public employees. It just rubs me the wrong way.”
Gertz, the former mayor, said the decision to nix the police department was purely financial, as the village was too small to offer competitive salaries and benefits.
“There was talk about disbanding the police department earlier this year, but we ended up finding good candidates,” he said. “Around August-September, we saw the light at the end of the tunnel. We thought we’d be closer to fully staffed.
“Then the bottom fell out from under us,” he said. “We lost officers to neighboring police departments and it crippled us again.”
The village’s website as of Friday made no mention of the disbanding. In fact, it thanked Sheriff Jim Neil and his deputies for helping with its patrols but said the assistance would no longer be necessary because four new officers had been hired.
“We appreciate the services of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, but glad to have our own patrol officers back on the job,” the website said.
Neil said the contract negotiations began this fall.
Neither Heimpold nor newly elected Mayor Steve Crase could be reached for comment Friday.
One thought on “Arlington Heights disbands its PD; Hamilton County Sheriff will patrol instead”
“Gertz, the former mayor, said the decision to nix the police department was purely financial, as the village was too small to offer competitive salaries and benefits.”
This is a good thing, and you should expect more of it. Police departments are expensive, and they’ll have to be a bit too heavy-handed with the fines and asset forfeitures to be profitable in a collapsing economy.