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Ready by the river

Hancock County deputies do it all

Employees from Nick’s tow company and Conrail work near an abandoned Chevy pickup truck, which is being towed along the tracks at the base of a Route 2 hill. The railroad employees were on hand to examine the crash area to make sure there was no damage to the tracks. Hancock County deputies are still investigating. (Photo by Stephanie Ujhelyi)

NEW CUMBERLAND — Deep in the Northern Panhandle, deputies are prepared for almost everything; however, they still can be surprised by some of it.

Unlike the majority of Columbiana County agencies, Hancock County police cruisers are equipped with dash cameras, which are an integral part of their policing effort, serving to assure quality control of the service they provide as well as counteract any bogus allegations of inappropriate behavior by deputies.

Scott Gittings was elected Hancock County sheriff last year and took oversight of the department in 2021.

During a typical shift Saturday, Hancock County sheriff’s deputy Patrick Hoder responded to a little bit of everything.

Hoder, who is a canine officer partnered with 3-year-old K-9 partner Bronco, found himself doing a variety of tasks along with three other deputies and a supervisor on afternoon shift. Some of them were more administrative like trying to coordinate a woman’s weekend surrender on a domestic violence warrant, while others found him responding to Mountaineer to investigate the attempted passing of a counterfeit $100 bill in a gaming machine.

It is interesting to see how civilians respond to an emergency vehicle like a police cruiser “running hot” with lights and sirens on Route 2.

Hoder confirmed that passing drivers on the West Virginia’s curvy and hilly roads tend to pull over even if not directly in the line of traffic, giving him and Bronco plenty of space on the road. This is not typical action on many less treacherous Ohio roads, where police officers and fire trucks often find themselves having to repeatedly change up their siren sounds to gain travelers’ attention so they can get by.

While over in the High Acres Drive area of Chester, backing up city Ptl. Donnie Blankenship on the call, Hoder decided to follow Blankenship to a neighbor dispute over a parking complaint in downtown Chester before swinging by Mountaineer to collect the fake $100, which will be sent to the Secret Service.

However, he soon found himself dispatched, with the rest of the deputies on shift, to the discovery of an abandoned pickup truck. At the start of their shift, deputies had discussed seeing the skid marks but no vehicle on Route 2 and briefly investigated the immediate area on their way into work. Several hours into their shift, a dispatcher received a call of the truck’s probable whereabouts after a passing train almost clipped it near the tracks at the base of the hill where it apparently met its final resting place after losing control.

There were no occupants — dead or alive — in the truck despite its significant drop to near the tracks, which run along the Ohio River.

Deputies would spend several hours at the site, providing traffic control and waiting for a tow crew from Nick’s and Conrail to remove it from near the tracks, so train traffic could continue. The task took several hours and plenty of chains and cables attached to the tow truck, which was thousands of feet away from where they could safely get the tow truck. As of last check, there was still no additional information on the vehicle or its owner, who had not reported it stolen.

The Vehicle Information Number revealed the Chevy pickup’s owner to be a Canton-area man, according to Gittings.

Throughout the day’s events, K9 Bronco mostly was quiet and just waiting for a chance to work. The only time that he actually got vocal was when Hoder left him behind in the cruiser when he returned to a call. However, the windows allowed him to watch or hear Hoder closely if he was nearby, demonstrating the special relationship between a handler and his canine partner.

The Hancock County Sheriff’s Office is based in the Hancock County Courthouse in New Cumberland.

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