Vernon Hills welcomes 3 new police officers
Police officers Adam Boyd (from left), Don Smith and Robert Caselli are sworn in by Village Clerk Mike Allison during a Jan. 9 ceremony at the Vernon Hills Police Department. | Submitted photo
· Five years with Fox River Grove Police Department
· Graduated Illinois State University
· Retired from the Libertyville Police Department after 25 years
· Held the rank of Sergent before retiring
· Graduated from Western Illinois University
· Six years with the Carbondale Police Department
· Graduated from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
Updated: March 25, 2013 1:18AM
VERNON HILLS — Three new police officers were hired in January — the first time in five years the Vernon Hills Police Department added to its staff.
Since the village initiated cost-cutting measures in late 2009, staff reductions and hiring freezes occurred throughout all departments, including the police force.Police officers Adam Boyd, Don Smith and Robert Caselli were sworn in by Village Clerk Mike Allison during a Jan. 9 ceremony at the Vernon Hills Police Department.
Village trustees and high-ranking administrators see these hires as a positive, but trustee candidate Ted Sindermann believes the police department should never have been included in the staff reductions.
“The police are shortchanged and weren’t given raises for a while,” said Sindermann. “Police (work) is an important service, yet expensive fireworks are still bought for Summer Celebration.”
Village President Roger Byrne said the village board took painstaking measures to maintain good service while reducing staffing levels in all village departments.
“We always took our police chief’s advice seriously,” said Trustee Barbara Williams, who is running for reelection. “All our reductions came with department head approval. We would never sell our residents short on police protection.”
Trustee Thom Koch, who is also seeking reelection, said the salary, pension and insurance on one officer costs the village an average of about $100,000.
“I’ve never felt uncomfortable with our police staffing level,” Koch said. “I trust that the chief would have told us if he really needed someone. I would listen and adhere to his advice if he did approach us with a need.”
Trustee James Schultz said at no point was he worried about a compromise in safety. Schultz also is running for reelection,
Police Chief Mark Fleischhauer said he was comfortable with the staffing level of the department and was confident the village board would authorize hires if he needed more manpower.
All reductions, Fleischhauer said, came from retirements or staff taking jobs outside the village. When an opening occurred, Fleischhauer said the staff was rearranged accordingly.
The economic downturn that caused staff reductions also benefited the department, Fleischhauer said.
“Vernon Hills has a nighttime population of about 25,000 people,” Fleischhauer said. “During the daytime, a lot of people are in town shopping or at work, driving the population to between 60,000 and 80,000 people.”
When big-box stores and offices started closing, Fleischhauer said calls for police dropped. He said serious crimes dropped 8 percent from 2007 to 2008, while general calls dropped 18 percent – equal to several thousand calls.
Bally’s Total Fitness, Circuit City, Home Expo, Plunkett, Super K, Dominick’s and Half Day Inn are all places that Fleischhauer said required a regular police presence until the local stores closed between 2008 and 2010.
“Bally’s had a lot of calls for stolen wallets, locker break-ins and car-related incidents,” Fleischhauer said. “Dominick’s had a lot of calls for stolen credit cards.”
The residential area has always been low-crime, Fleischhauer said.
“We live in a very nice area,” Fleischhauer said. “I can think of many, many other towns with very serious crimes occurring in their neighborhoods on a routine basis. Our major need is in the commercial area.”
With more stores returning along Townline Road and Route 45, Village Manager Mike Allison said both the need and revenue for routine policing is back.