FROM THE EDITOR'S DESK: Better check with your neighbors first!

Staff Writer
Mineral Daily News-Tribune
Liz Beavers

One evening a few weeks ago, my dogs took off running toward the front of the house, barking for all they were worth.

To be honest, I don’t always pay attention to them when they run around like that, because quite frankly, the little yappers will bark at just about anything, including a leaf blowing down the street and someone knocking on the door … on TV.

But this particular time I heard yelling in addition to their alerts, so I figured I’d better go check it out.

There was a group of about six or eight young people - possibly teens, possibly early 20s - fighting in the street near my house.

The altercation was a verbal one … until someone showed up with a baseball bat in his hand.

I decided it was time to call 911.

The dispatcher said they would send someone out and so I waited. The young people seemed to calm down, or at least to think better of getting into a fight with a baseball bat, and split up. Some of them went up the street and some of them went down the street.

And I continued to wait on a police officer to arrive, or at least for a cruiser to drive up the street as a deterrent.

I’m not really sure how long I waited. An hour at least. And still no law enforcement.

What if the fight had escalated and that bat had been used?

I should tell you that I live in a town that gave up its police department as a cost-saving measure a number of years ago. The town officials struck a deal with the county sheriff and his deputies were to provide police coverage, even station an officer in town at certain times, and pledged to the people that we would see very little difference in law enforcement coverage.

Unfortunately, that has not been the case. Even from very early on.

Please understand, this is nothing against the officers. Just like many other public servants they are swamped and can only do so much.

And in all fairness, another time I needed to call 911 they were there very promptly. But I’m thinking they could have been somewhere in the area and therefore arrived in a more timely manner.

You see, when you call for an officer in Allegany County, that officer could be down the street, or he could be in Frostburg or Flintstone. That’s a lot of miles to travel when there’s a possibly volatile situation on your street.

Mineral County has the same problem. You might need an officer in the Keyser area, but in order to answer the call he has to come from another call in Burlington, Wiley Ford, Elk Garden, or even the Grant County line.

When it comes to county-wide police coverage, geography is not our friend.

Neither is the constantly dwindling number of officers - whether you’re talking city, county or state - and the pitiful pay they get to put their lives on the line every day.

As far as any cost savings, that county law enforcement coverage doesn't come free. The city still has to pay its share.

So we learned last week that apparently back in 2018 some Keyser officials struck up a conversation with some county officials to possibly work out a deal similar to their neighbors in Allegany County.

Some city officials (not all) feel the police department is way too costly and needs to be disbanded and law enforcement coverage of the city turned over to the sheriff’s department.

Those officials need to talk to the residents of Westernport and see how their arrangement has worked out for them.