City adding police officers

McCORDSVILLE — Security concerns about McCordsville’s upcoming new Meijer store have town officials increasing their police force in anticipation of more emergency calls.

The McCordsville Town Council hopes to increase the department by more than a third over the next four years, starting with the hiring of two full-time officers in 2017, which will take the department from 12 to 14.

In November, officials from Meijer announced plans to build a 193,000-square-foot store and gas station on a 35-acre plot of land near the corner of Broadway and Carroll Road in McCordsville. Construction on the site is expected to begin this year, and when it opens in 2017, it will bring an influx of shoplifting calls and minor traffic accidents, Chief Harold Rodgers said.

Big-box stores draw considerable traffic, which regular draws public safety resources. By comparison, emergency personnel have been called to Walmart in Greenfield at least once every day this year. According to Greenfield Police Department officials, officers have responded to 141 various 911 calls to the store since January 1

In Cumberland, police are called to the Meijer there an average of 400 times a year, records show.

McCordsville police say they are bracing for the same sort of increase in a town that is already trying to cope with more and more emergency calls each year in a fast-growing community.

Rodgers said patrol officers handled 8,900 emergency calls in 2015 — 600 more than they did the year before.

Adding additional officers puts the department in line with federal recommendations for police-to-population ratios, Rodgers said.

The U.S. Department of Justice recommends one officer for every 500 residents in a town or city. Currently, McCordsville misses that recommendation, Rodgers said.

U.S. census data from 2010 lists McCordsville’s population at about 4,800 residents, and town officials estimate the area has gained more than 2,000 residents in recent years — meaning the department needs about 14 officers now. Local leaders expect the population will continue to rise, with at least 7,000 people calling to the town home by 2020.

The additional officers’ salaries — about $38,000 each, not including benefits — will be covered by the town’s general fund and its local option income tax, which is reserved for public safety initiatives, officials said.

When any kind of development comes to McCordsville, public safety adjustments are always part of the conversation, town councilman Larry Longman said. Everything from winter plowing to ambulance response efforts are considered when new subdivisions or storefronts are added to the town’s landscape.

So when Meijer started eyeing the town 10 years ago, and the deal solidified years later, police became part of the conversation surrounding whether the town could support such an addition, he said.

This proactive thinking is always on town officials’ minds, town councilman Bryan Burney said. Officials try to look ahead five years to check project growth and see how government-provided services will need to adjust to support the change, he said.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.