River Hills officials to discuss charging for house checks

Police Department makes 11,000 checks per year

Dec. 4, 2012

River Hills - River Hills residents may have to start paying for house checks from the police.

At a meeting last week, the Village Board discussed the idea as a potential means of increasing village revenues and helping offset budget cuts and state-mandated levy limits.

"It's a very preliminary idea," Village Manager Christopher Lear said, "where the board desires to find new revenues as a means of keeping the property tax in check."

The Police Department has long provided the service to residents who are out of town on vacation or business, or those who think they have been threatened, and in some cases, those who have lost wallets, keys, or purses and suspect someone may be able to gain entry into their homes. For residents who have signed up for house checks, police will drive up the driveway and visually inspect each house, on foot if they see something suspicious, once each eight-hour shift for a total of three times per day.

The department has conducted an average of approximately 11,000 house checks in each of the last three years. During that same period, police have been performing checks on an average of 10 River Hills properties on any given day, though Chief Tom Rischmann noted there are peak usage times throughout the year and, depending on shift activity, sometimes officers visit less than three times per day.

He and trustee Peggy Russo will soon embark on what she calls a "fact-finding mission" into River Hills residents' usage of the house check service, primarily centered on usage distribution throughout the village.

"If (usage is) across the board, it's something we need to find out," Russo said. "If it's just a select few, that's something you want to know."

Rischmann's records show that in 2011, 109 separate property owners used the house checks. There are 634 total households, according to the village website. Rischmann noted that nearly all checks come from residential property owners, adding that he would say usage is "evenly distributed" among property owners.

The idea is, at this point, just an idea. Police and the board would need to come up with policies to decide who would have to pay for the checks and how much.

"We would have to draft some criteria for which ones we would charge and which ones we wouldn't," Rischmann said.

Officials have suggested charging owners for checks while they're away for extended periods of time, or for homes that are vacant or up for sale.

"I'm thinking of people who are gone for the winter," Russo said at the meeting. "We would need (police) input. We've got to talk it through and see where it would be viable."

She added later that the house checks are valuable in that they help officers "know what's going on in the community. It works to a mutual advantage."

After Russo meets with Chief Rischmann, the matter could come before the Village Board for discussion or action in the coming months, though Russo noted the discussion "could go nowhere."

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