Cook Co. Sheriff's Dept. takes over Dixmoor midnight shift

August 6, 2013 (DIXMOOR, Ill.)

This comes after two members of the Dixmoor Police Department walked off their jobs. Dixmoor is one of several suburbs facing financial problems.

The staffing of the Dixmoor Police Department has been described as skeletal at best, with five full-time cops and four part-time officers to patrol a village of 3,400 people. But now that number is even smaller since two officers walked off their jobs on the midnight shift early Sunday morning to protest their working conditions. The police chief reached out to the Cook County Sheriff's Department for help with the night patrol.

"He can't afford for people to call off or don't show up for work. They find themselves with no capacity to keep the village of Dixmoor safe," said Cara Smith, spokesperson, Cook County Sheriff's Dept.

So the sheriff's office agreed to provide two patrol cars on the midnight shift. It's part of the department's expansion of crime-fighting duties in the suburbs. A few years ago, it took over patrols in south suburban Ford Heights and has a presence in Robbins and Dolton, all communities that are struggling financially.

"Whether it's because of mismanagement or corruption or low tax base, its impact on law enforcement resources and public protection is very significant," Smith said.

Residents who say Dixmoor's money problems are well known are not surprised the police department asked for help.

"Dixmoor don't have any money. That's all it is. They probably do need the help," said Crystal Taylor, resident.

"This is the third poorest community in Illinois. I guess it would result in those problems when you don't have the money flowing the right way," said resident Alan Ford.

"We inherited a deficit from a previous administration. And right now, we're strapped for cash like any other south suburban municipality," said Michael Smith, Dixmoor village trustee.

In 2008, Sheriff Tom Dart took over patrols in south suburban Ford Heights after that village disbanded its police department because of budget woes. The sheriff's office also has a regular police presence in south suburban Dolton, supplementing that police department's patrols.

On Monday, sheriff's officials met with Dixmoor Police Chief Robert Fox and agreed to provide two sheriff's patrol cars on the midnight shift until at least Aug. 14, when Dixmoor's board of trustees can consider whether to hire new officers, Smith said.

Asked if the town has money for more officers in its police budget of just over $1 million, Michael Smith said he doesn't sit on the finance committee and doesn't know the specifics of Dixmoor's financial situation.

Traditionally, the sheriff's key duties have been running the Cook County Jail and patrolling unincorporated areas of Cook County. The sheriff's patrols in Ford Heights, Dixmoor and Dolton are part of the office's expanding role in the suburbs.

"The sheriff is doing a yeoman's job in assisting all of the communities out here whenever our manpower is down," Fox said.

In recent months, Dart also has agreed to serve as inspector general of Dolton and west suburban Maywood to root out corruption in those towns. Dart sent a letter to the almost 130 municipalities in Cook County other than Chicago offering the same service to them.

In February, Dart created a gun team with the primary mission of recovering revoked Firearm Owner's Identification cards from people throughout Cook County's suburbs and seize any guns they have. More than 3,000 people in Cook County have failed to surrender their revoked FOID cards to the state. Through July, the gun team had recovered more than 160 FOID cards and seized more than 160 guns from people whose cards were revoked.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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