The news that there was no local police protection came as a surprise to many Freeport companies on Saturday.
The district has had no police officers on duty since November 3, when the newly hired police chief resigned after his first shift.
“I’m shocked,” said Jess Stobert, owner of the Fifth Street Bistro. “I find it kind of funny (he quit after the first day).”
Retired Plum Police Sgt. Matthew Feldmeier, 58, was hired as chief on November 1st and sworn in by Mayor James Swartz Jr. that night. He was the only applicant for the $ 53,500 a year job.
Feldmeier briefly replaced Eric Belton, who had resigned at the end of last month after six years in Freeport to take a job with the Plum police. Former Freeport officer Chris Kovacs left town in October after joining the South Buffalo Township Police Department.
Belton joined the Freeport troop in November 2015 and was in charge for more than a year. Kovacs worked for the district for four years.
“They came here to eat and everything,” said Stobert of the former officers. “They were nice guys. I was looking forward to the new one, and now we don’t have a new one. “
The only other cop on the county roster is Terry Lucas, a part-time worker who also works as a cop at a Pittsburgh hospital.
But Mayor James Swartz Jr. said Lucas hadn’t worked a shift for the district in nearly five months because of the demands of his other job.
Feldmeier took part in interviews in order to fill two open positions with the police before his resignation.
Since then, he has not responded to several messages asking for comments.
State police are handling calls in the 1.3 square mile district of about 1,700 residents, officials said.
“I feel very safe here, but that definitely worries me,” says Frank Amato, owner of Johnny Carpet on Fifth Street. “We’ve never had a problem with crime here.”
The floor and do-it-yourself workshop has been open for around six years.
Allegheny Township’s Amato said he regularly saw patrol cars drive around town, and former chief Jeff Swiklinski was constantly present in the business district.
He couldn’t understand why an officer wanted to leave the district, especially after a day.
The mayor said Feldmeier had given no evidence of his resignation. According to the mayor, Feldmeier left a handwritten letter of resignation in which he declared that he had “pursued other interests”.
Lock 5 tavern owner Matthew Vogan blames the mayor for the lack of cover from the district police.
“The mayor lets everyone run away from him,” said Vogan. “I disagree with everything that’s happening in this district right now. We’re out of control. “
Vogan believes there will be no Freeport police as long as Swartz is mayor.
Swartz was elected for another four-year term last week.
“It’s an infection we can’t get rid of,” said Vogan. He praised Belton and thanked him for his services.
Vogan took offense at a comment Swartz made to the Tribune Review about Feldmeier’s brief time in town.
“I told him where the bars are and that, to be honest, this is a quiet little town,” Swartz told Feldmeier. “So I think he knew pretty well what the job was about.”
Vogan felt that Swartz’s statement was about his establishment.
“Really, I am a problem,” wrote Vogan on Lock 5’s Facebook page. “No sir, you are the problem.”
Calls to Swartz on Saturday to respond were not answered immediately.
Other residents and business owners did not want to comment on the police situation.
Michael DiVittorio is a contributor to Tribune Review. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter.
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