A recent string of convenience-store robberies in Rossford is an example of the need for a new regional SWAT team to alleviate the strain on local police departments, officials in Wood County say.
The SWAT team, which would be made up of up to 18 police officers from seven agencies, is scheduled to be up and running this summer, said Joe Ball, a Perrysburg Township police officer who was tapped with Lake Township Sgt. Scott Sims to lead the Northern Multijurisdictional SWAT team. The team would represent the Northwood, Rossford, Walbridge, and Lake and Perrysburg township forces and police departments for Owens Community College and CSX Transportation Corp.
The police officers would be called out for special assignments with the SWAT team in addition to their regular duties. They would be used in high-risk situations such as somebody barricaded in a house with a gun or in tracking down a person for whom an arrest warrant has been issued for a serious crime.
In situations such as the Rossford robberies, the team could provide plainclothes officers in unmarked cars.
If SWAT officers get paid overtime, the cost is spread more evenly among the agencies, instead of one local department handling the investigation getting saddled with overtime costs, officials said.
"I definitely think it's a good thing," Walbridge Police Chief Kenneth Frost said. "Combining resources between agencies saves taxpayer money."
The team will be funded by drug forfeiture money rather than tax dollars. The departments own most of the police equipment, and Perrysburg Township police donated an out-of-service ambulance to be converted into the new SWAT vehicle.
Any extra equipment will be spent from local drug-forfeited money, said Lake Township Police Chief Mark Hummer, adding the officers will get training at Owens and from the Toledo Police Department SWAT team.
The Wood County Sheriff's Office has the only SWAT team operating in the county.
The idea for a regional SWAT team -- instead of relying on the countywide squad from Bowling Green -- started after multiple agencies responded to a August, 2007, double homicide in Perrysburg Township. Thomas Lazar, 58, a former Pennsylvania state trooper, and Douglas Smith, 44, of Toledo, were shot outside Liberty Transportation Co. where they worked.
"We said we really need to work on communication and working as a team," Chief Hummer said. "Criminals don't know our boundaries."