Bessemer City votes to restore police force after 14 year hiatus - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Bessemer City votes to restore police force after 14 year hiatus

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BESSEMER CITY, NC (WBTV) -

A Gaston County town will soon have its own police force, for the first time in 14 years.

The Gaston Gazette reports the city council for Bessemer City voted in favor of the plan Monday night.

The newspaper reports City Councilman Dan Boling brought the issue to the table about 20 minutes into the meeting designated to discuss the future of patrols in the town.

Bessemer City has a population of just over 53 hundred, and the decision to end the agreement with Gaston County came down to a case of sticker shock.

At the end of the day, it was about the numbers.

Becky Smith is the town's mayor and cast the deciding vote to move forward.

She remembers a time when the community had officers they could call their own.

"I think everyone enjoyed having people they knew, and that knew the community," she said.

Central Drug has been on Main Street since 1927, and Robby Putnam whose family owns the business likes the idea of officers being on the same block.

 "We were broken into maybe five years ago. They stole a few things," Putnam said. "It would be nice to have some officers' right down the street who could respond a little quicker."

It is very personal for Angel Autry. She also has a shop on Main Street. Her brother William Wray is a retired Gaston County Deputy, and her dad Fred was the town's police chief in the 1960's.

She longs for a local connection.

Autry said, "I live here and when I pick up the phone, and say it's Angel. They know where to come to."

Mayor Smith says the goal is simple.

"We're going to hire the best people we can possibly find," she said.

Hiring is expected to begin later this year, and once the department is up and running a staff of 11 could be hired.

Since 1999, Gaston County police have patrolled the streets of Bessemer City. This year, the town is faced with a $420,000 bill from the county. Earlier this month, WBTV reported council members discussed paying the county $620,000 to protect its residents in 2014. That price tag would have increased to $1.2 million dollars by 2018.

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