Public addresses Red Lion Borough Council’s police coverage options

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If there is an emergency in Red Lion, York County, the York Area Regional Police Department responds. But that will change come January. A few weeks ago the police commission passed a resolution to end service to Red Lion Borough at the end of December. Monday the public addressed the council at a town hall meeting, and things got heated.

Everyone who spoke to the council is worried about what could happen to the borough if it can't come to a contract agreement by the end of the year. The core of the issue is money and council members say they don't want to raise taxes.

Frustration has community members yelling at council and pacing the front of the room. They're angry council members can't reach a deal with the York Area Regional police commission.

"State police cannot cover this. They cannot look over our safety. Not then, not now," says a woman who spoke in front of Monday's crowd.

The borough council says it's more than just an agreement that's at stake. This time around, council president, Walt Hughes says it's about tax dollars. The price for York Area Regional coverage has increased. Hughes says he does not want to raise taxes for borough residents but the money has to come from somewhere. He says starting the borough's own police department is the poorest choice.

Red Lion's total budget for 2015 is estimated at just over 2 million dollars. Police coverage with York Area Regional would cost the borough 1 to 1.5 million dollars in '15, while coverage with Pennsylvania State Police is free.

Christina Thompson and her fiance, Guy Verdinelli, aren't concerned about the money. They're worried about response time. Christina says York Area Regional Police responded within 3 minutes when 3 men attacked her fiance a few months ago.

"He may not be here and I truly feel if it weren't for York Area Police Department's response and how quickly they got there, it would've turned out much differently than it did," says Thompson.

Chief of Red Lion EMS, Ron Harlacker agrees. He says response time is the difference between life and death.

"We have quite a few number of psychiatric patients, we have shootings, we have stabbings, we have assaults. Prior to us going into the scene we have to have a police officer clear the scene so it is safe," says Harlacker.

Besides switching from York Area Regional Police to Pennsylvania State Police coverage, the council is also discussing starting up its own police department of two to four officers. That would cost the council $100,000 to start up and about $1M to run. Council hasn't made clear the option its choosing. It has until December to agree to a contract with York Area Regional Police.