Law enforcement and nuisances were a common theme running through the City of Winchester’s meeting last Monday night.
Winchester Chief of Police Caleb Handy says that instances of vandalism are still occurring throughout the city. He says that the police department is assisting in placing cameras at various places throughout town to stop the problem.
City Council members Terry Gregory and Lawrence Coultas mentioned speeding as being problematic in their wards, especially in areas where children are present and near Illinois Route 106 north of town. Coultas mentioned the possibility of placing speed bumps to deter would-be speedsters throughout town. Several members of the council cited various problems with the idea, but could not come to an agreement on another solution. Others suggested stepping up enforcement and issuing more speeding tickets in town.
City Attorney John Paul Coonrod provided another problem brought to the attention of the city in the last few months – noise nuisances, especially loud music after daylight hours. Coonrod presented two ordinances that passed unanimously that created a noise nuisance ordinance that allows city police to issue tickets through the municipal court system to fine would-be offenders.
Mayor Rex McIntire says he’s not heard about too many people complaining about noise issues, but speeding has been brought to his attention several times: “I don’t think we’ve had a rash of any problems like loud noises. About the worse thing that we’ve got is excessive speeding. I haven’t heard too many people talk about noise problems. We do want people to slow down. There’s places where children are playing close by and sometimes people just don’t think. Once a child gets hit, well, it’s too late.”
McIntire says that the city is going to advertise for a full-time, on duty police officer to help with cutting down on the city’s on-call and overtime hours.
Council member Lawrence Coultas had recommended that the County Sheriff’s Office step up to provide additional coverage to the City of Winchester since the majority of the county’s tax money comes from inside Winchester. According to the 2020 Census, a third of the county’s population resides in the city.
McIntire says that the Sheriff’s Office is also battling similar problems as the City in trying to find more help: “I don’t want the idea the county isn’t helping to get blown out of proportion, but they are shorthanded, too. I know when Lawrence is talking about having the county cover when we don’t have somebody on duty that’s hard to do. They can’t even cover the county at times. I knew that idea was going nowhere. It would be nice if it would work, but they have issues, too.”
McIntire says that a benefit that the city police have that other departments in the area do not is that the city pays for an officer’s insurance. He says the problem with getting new officers is retention, as many have aspirations to move on to a larger city, to the county sheriff’s office, or state departments for either better pay and benefits or out of simple ambition.