Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 23, 2017

Fairfield Police not chasing bats, loose dogs

By Andy Hallman | Jul 31, 2014

FAIRFIELD — Discovering a bat in the house will no longer prompt a visit from the Fairfield Police Department.
The police department announced policy changes Tuesday to reduce the time officers spend on non-criminal activity. The press release said the changes have been in effect since July 1, when department supervisors restructured the force’s operating procedures in light of the increasing number of investigations into vehicle burglaries, domestic assaults, drug possession, sexual assaults and thefts.
Fairfield Police Cpt. Dave Thomas said the complicated and lengthy investigations have increased in number for many years, and the police have finally reached a breaking point. He said officers receive so many calls that they all have to be ready to take them, even the chief investigator Colin Smith at times.
“It was determined that FPD officers need to perform law enforcement duties and responsibilities first and foremost, so other non-law enforcement activities were eliminated,” read the press release. “Our priorities are to the citizens of Fairfield and their safety. We have decided on this change of policy to insure that we can provide the best services to our citizens.”
The most significant change has been to how the police handle animal complaints. The police will not pick up loose dogs unless they are vicious and a threat to public safety. The press release stated the department simply does not have the personnel to perform this function.
“Previously, this was a very time-consuming task for a non-law enforcement activity, and the animals have caused damage to squad vehicles and police equipment,” read the release. “Citizens can transport loose dogs to the standard location [veterinary clinic] but need to contact FPD first.”
Neither will officers respond to any nuisance animal calls, such as those about removing bats from a house. The police recommend that residents contact other entities or private companies that specialize in animal control.
The police will not pick up abandoned bikes unless the bikes are evidence in a crime. Abandoned bikes can be transported to the department’s impound area, where an officer will assist in securing it.
Thomas said officers had trouble completing their important investigations because they were called upon to capture loose dogs and to free flying bats. He estimated the department spent three to four hours per day responding to these and other non-criminal calls.
“A lot of times, citizens don’t know who to contact for public service questions, like who to call to report a water main break,” Thomas said. “They don’t understand that this is the water department’s responsibility. We see the same thing with animals in the home. Citizens can call a private company to remove those. It’s not a law enforcement matter.”
“Ultimately, enforcing the law is the job we were hired to do,” he said. “We are still enforcing all the dog ordinance. It’s still against the law to let a dog run loose in the city, and we’re still giving warnings or citations to the owner. If it’s a vicious animal, we’ll still deal with it.”
What is not in the city ordinance, and which the police have stopped doing, is capturing the dog to take it to the Fairfield Veterinary Clinic. Thomas said residents can capture loose dogs on their own and take them to the clinic, where an officer will meet them. However, residents must call police before they do this, and they may only take dogs running loose in the city.
Thomas said people should not take loose dogs from the countryside to the vet clinic, because there is no law against letting a dog run loose outside city limits and for that reason the vet clinic will not take them. The vet clinic charges the owners of the loose dogs for holding them. Thomas said the vet clinic provides a terrific service for the community, and often ends up holding dogs it never gets paid for because the owner can’t be found.

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