By Anne O’Connor
ASHBY — Recent budget reductions forced the town to reduce the police force by one officer. Now the department is closed from midnight to 7 a.m.
The cuts went into effect July 1. In June voters rejected a Proposition 2 1/2 override that included wages for a police officer.
Closing the department for a third of the day will affect the community. “We’ve had some people lament the cut in services,” Police Chief Paul Lundin said.
Emergency response will still be available. “If anyone has any type of emergency they should call 911,” he said. “Our dispatch center is staffed. It’s a separate department.”
“They can dispatch fire, ambulance and state police,” Lundin clarified. “Things that need immediate attention will be referred to the state police.”
“We’re going to be holding some calls for the daylight hours,” Lundin said. There will sometimes be an officer on duty during the night, but Lundin did not say when the shifts would occur.
Before July 1 and the start of the current fiscal year, one officer patrolled the town during the overnight hours.
Lundin said proactive policing would be limited by this cut. Responding to emergency calls is just a part of what officers do.
During the night, officers would do directed patrols of certain areas, house watches for people away from home and traffic enforcement. The state police will not do those types of community policing.
There is no charge to the town for calling the state police, Lundin said. Response time will be slow however.
“Our state police come from Leominster,” he said. “They have a pretty large patrol area.”
Ashby residents should not expect help from surrounding towns. While local police forces are sometimes called on to assist state police, they do not respond to other towns.
“Other taxpayers will not pay to protect the citizens of Ashby who have not come up with the money,” Lundin said.
The state police were not called to Ashby during the first seven days of July. Lundin said emergencies at night are not frequent.
Ashby taxpayers have refused other funding requests from the police. In 2008 voters rejected an override to purchase a new cruiser.
Requests for funding to build a new police station have been rejected by voters at Town Meeting. The department is run out of an outdated double-wide trailer.