Mutual aid keeps Antrim Police Department officers busy

Antrim Police

Antrim Police FILE PHOTO

By JESSECA TIMMONS

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript 

Published: 06-03-2024 12:04 PM

In a typical day at the Antrim police station, officers respond to anywhere from 25 to 40 or 50 incidents in a day, ranging from false alarm calls to car accidents on Route 9, and from assisting EMS first-responders to animal complaints.

But they’re not always in Antrim. The department also covers Hillsborough, Bennington, Washington and Deering, as well as responding to major emergencies from other towns in the area. 

“We’re larger than most of our surrounding towns. They all have smaller departments with fewer officers, so we provide assistance to those towns, as well as mutual aid to Hillsborough. We are pretty busy,” said Antrim’s new police chief, John Blake. 

Antrim and Hillsborough, separated by seven miles, share coverage of part of State Route 202 as well as a stretch of State Route 9. 

“We’re all small towns, and we all rely heavily on one another. Antrim and Hillsborough police departments are very interconnected; we share prosecuting as well, ” Blake said. 

Antrim and Hillsborough have a mutual aid agreement: Hillsborough provides dispatch at all hours and coverage from 2 to 6:30 a.m., when the Antrim Police Department does not have an officer  in the station. Blake explained that towns do not pay one another for the mutual aid, similar to arrangements between local fire departments.

“We all help each other equally, and it all evens out,” Blake said. “It is very beneficial when departments are short-staffed in particular, to ensure coverage.” 

Blake noted that while Antrim is budgeted to have six officers, the department currently only has four, and that most other local police departments are in the same situation.

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“Like most police departments, we are short-staffed. Our officers take the cruiser home so they can respond to calls from their homes,” Blake said. “Bennington and Washington are very small towns. They each have only two officers, and they’re mostly surrounded by other very small towns who can’t always respond, so we provide backup to those towns, as well.” 

Blake said he does not see any immediate solutions for the police staffing shortage, which is a nationwide issue in police departments. 

“The applicant pool is just very slim. When the state changed the retirement age, a lot of the older officers retired, and there has just been no one to replace them,” Blake said. “But we feel very supported by the Town of Antrim. Our department is very supported by our community.”

Since taking over as chief April 1, one of Blake’s goals has been to continue to integrate technology into the department’s operations. 

“One change we’ve made is that we now hear the calls in live time, so we always have a sense of what we are dealing with and what the other towns are responding to,” Blake said. “As soon as we get the call, if it’s closer to us, we can start to respond.”