BUTLER TWP. — Nearly two dozen people descended on the Butler Township Hall on Monday evening for the Imperial Hills Neighborhood Watch meeting.
While much of the meeting was spent on ways to prevent crimes such as locking car doors, not leaving items in vehicles, installation of motion-sensor lighting, and vacation house checks, those in attendance expressed significant concerns about crime in the Miller Lane Business District and specifically Walmart.
Those concerns were heightened after a large fight at the Walmart on Saturday evening and several videos that emerged on social media platforms.
“It was very discouraging because our officers got the call about the fight, they get there, there was about 50 people standing around, and the officers have no idea what they are getting into,” said Butler Township Police Chief John Porter. “They were told there were individuals fighting, one was identified, but everyone else is crowding around the officers. That was a very scary situation.
“I was very proud of our officers during that situation at Walmart Saturday night. They did an excellent job and maintained their composure in a very difficult situation. They made sure no one got hurt. It could have gotten out of hand very quickly.”
Porter acknowledged that the Walmart presents a challenge for the police department. Overall, the police took nearly 17,700 calls for service in 2017 with approximately 60 percent being in the business district. Police had 1,184 calls for service at Walmart including nearly 300 business checks.
Porter said the department had scheduled a meeting with Walmart’s regional managers to discuss “things that are going on.”
“Walmart is an important fixture in the community,” said Porter. “It produces a lot tax money that helps put services, including police cars and fire trucks, into the township as a whole. Without it, there would be a loss of tax base that would ripple through the business district and be detrimental. But there is also a lot of bad things going on there.”
Reach Darrell Wacker at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.