CAVE CITY, AR (KAIT) – The town of Cave City has celebrated a lot of firsts recently.
Town officials cheered when voters approved the city's first-ever sales tax by a narrow margin of 11 votes in October 2013. Revenue from that tax will now allow the Cave City Police Department to patrol around the clock for the first time ever.
When Nathan Stephens became police chief, he set a goal to finally get constant police protection for Cave City. That dream became a reality when voters approved the one-cent sales tax in October. The city plans to use half the revenue to hire and equip a new police officer, which will cost about $65,000.
Even though the town will not receive any revenue from the sales tax until March, Stephens said the city council decided to go ahead and hire a new officer in December so that the police department could provide around-the-clock coverage.
"We're up to 13 officers now. We just hired a fourth full-time guy, and late in the fall last year, we added three reserve officers," Stephens said. "Since we've added the fourth full-time officer, we've been able to go to 24/7 coverage, which Cave City never had, so we've got an officer out 24/7, 365 now."
By bringing on this new hire now, Stephens can work during the day with another officer and then have two others patrol during the night.
"After several applicants, we decided on Trent Milligan," the chief said. "He was a deputy with the Sharp County Sheriff's Office and before that with the Izard County Sheriff's Office. He has eight years experience. He's a real good officer."
Stephens said hiring Milligan came with an added bonus – a police dog that he had from a previous job.
"She's certified through the state to be a narcotics dog," Stephens said, "and so far we're having real good luck with her. She's a huge addition to the department."
Having four full-time officers has also cut down response times, particularly during the overnight hours when officers had to be on call at different times.
"It's [now] a response time of probably two minutes in the city," Stephens explained, "whereas it probably would have been 12 to 15 minutes by the time we got up and got our uniforms on and got ready to go."
The police chief said this change should be regarded as a historic one for Cave City. When asked about their thoughts on having 24/7 police protection now, residents welcomed the news because they say it will make Cave City safer.
"Especially with alcohol coming into town," Melissa Howell said, "I think they really do need [24/7 coverage]."
"[Officers] being present alone kind of tells people, ‘Hey, they're out. We've got to behave,'" Dannie Martin said. "It'll probably help a lot of teenage kids stay out of trouble, too."
The one-cent sales tax will also help the city fund several other improvement projects, including upgrades to local streets.
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