Alliance, magnolia police ask for help to bust johns and form police district – news – the repository – canton, oh

Two local police officers testified Tuesday morning before the Ohio House Local Government Committee, seeking to make it easier to prosecute people soliciting prostitutes and to allow Magnolia to form a police district with Sandy Township and East Sparta. Alliance Police Capt. John Jenkins asked the General Assembly to expand the definition of soliciting a person for prostitution to include the act of agreeing “to engage with the other person in sexual activity for hire.” It’s a provision sought by law enforcement to make it easier to prosecute people seeking to buy or sell sexual activity from or to an undercover police officer. “Under current law, if police mention the act or money, we are doing the soliciting, and cases are thrown out in court,” according to Jenkins’ submitted written testimony. “The proposed wording change would allow undercover officers to mention the act, or money, without having cases dismissed.” Additionally, Magnolia Police Sgt. Michael Balash told the committee that state law doesn’t allow communities to form joint police districts, unless they all border each other or are contiguous. East Sparta is separated from Sandy Township and Magnolia by Pike Township. “The approximate three miles that separate our geographical borders means we can’t put a consolidated levy before the voters that represents a millage that is fair for everyone,” according to the submitted written testimony of Balash, who is also a Repository photographer. “The inability to form a police district restricts our ability to compete for grants based on population and median income. It weakens our purchasing power and forces us to spend money on duplication of services.” Bill introduced After meetings with local police officers, State Rep. Christina Hagan, R-Marlboro Township, introduced legislation on Feb. 11 that would expand the definition of soliciting for prostitution, allow communities to form police districts even if they’re non-contiguous or not next to each other, make it easier for police officers to address prescription drug abuse and protect them from lawsuits if they try to save people from dying from heroin overdoses. “There’s language to help curb human trafficking and the prostitution rate in the state,” Hagan said. State Rep. Robert Sprague, R-Findlay is a joint sponsor of the bill. Currently, state law makes it illegal to solicit anyone “to engage with such other person in sexual activity for hire.” The bill would also make it illegal to “agree with another … to engage with such other person in sexual activity for hire.” Jenkins, the operations commander for Alliance police, wrote that 36 states now have this “or agree to” language in their laws regarding prostitution. “Prostitutes are very aware that police cannot be the one to mention sex acts or money,” Jenkins’ testimony said. “They force the client to be the one to first mention a sex act or money. If the client will not, they assume it is a police officer and leave.”

Page 2 of 2 – Stymied by law The Magnolia Police has provided police services to Sandy Township and East Sparta for years under a contract, said Magnolia Police Chief Jeffrey Hager. But Sandy Township and East Sparta do not have a police levy and when revenue, such as landfill tipping fees, fell short, they cut back on contracted patrols to the point police officers would only respond to reports of ongoing violence. The department’s budget is less than $200,000 a year. Last fall, the communities, with a combined population of about 4,900, began looking at establishing a joint police district where they could ask their voters to approve a police levy to fund police services. With a steady revenue stream, a joint police force that answered to a governing board made up of representatives of all the communities would replace the Magnolia Police Department. However, the planning fell apart when they realized state law didn’t allow non-contiguous communities to form police districts. And the Pike Township trustees weren’t interested in joining the district because they were happy with contracted services from the Stark County sheriff. Hager said the law allowed non-contiguous communities in the Sandy Valley area to form the Mohawk Valley Joint Fire District, but it strangely doesn’t allow the same to be done for a police district. Hager said with an “astronomically higher” influx of traffic and increases in crashes due to the higher number of trucks serving the oil and gas industry, the number of incidents his department handles has grown to more than 840 a year. “We had a meth lab last week. We have sex crimes. I’ve had bank robberies. We’ve had (domestic violence calls). Pretty much everything,” he said. “We also have six state routes that go through our jurisdiction.” He said if voters approved the creation of a police district and a levy, he would increase the number of paid officers from 10 to 15 and the number of full-time officers from two to up to six, allowing for staffing for 24 hours a day. You can reach Robert at 330-580-8327 or robert. wang@cantonrep. com. Twitter: @rwangREP