A Chesapeake town clerk knew all of the town's officers were off duty when she picked up the phone to call for help after a person tried to break into her home.
The eight small towns along the Kanawha River east of Charleston each have fewer than a half dozen full or part-time officers. They typically end their day's work in the evening, as a number of the towns don't have the manpower to keep an officer on duty overnight.
But the clerk still needed help, said Chesapeake Mayor Damron Bradshaw, who also is president of the Upper Kanawha Valley Mayors Association. A member of the Kanawha Sheriff's East City Patrol soon arrived at her home and looked around for signs of the prowler. The deputy told her he would hang around the area and check on her again that evening.
It gave the woman peace of mind, Bradshaw said.
The East City Patrol program, which was instituted by then-Sheriff (now chief deputy) Mike Rutherford and carried on by Sheriff John Rutherford, has been up and running for six years.
The three-deputy patrol, which is led by Sgt. Rick Keglor, looks after only the eight small towns - Belle, Glasgow, Cedar Grove, Pratt, Handley, East Bank, Chesapeake and Marmet - along the river. That unit is in addition to the dozen or so deputies who serve that end of the county out of the Chelyan detachment.
Kanawha County Commissioner Dave Hardy, who grew up in Pratt, said the lack of around-the-clock law enforcement in Eastern Kanawha County was a big issue 10 years ago when he was campaigning for a second term on commission.
"No matter where I went, the issue was always law enforcement," Hardy said. "They don't have the business base they once had to support it.
"They just didn't have the budgets anymore to provide police coverage around the clock."
The sheriff's office worked with the commission to extend coverage into the towns. Officials thought of using coal severance funds for the unit after seeing how much of a role the coal industry still plays in the region after counting 57 coal trucks coming out of Cabin Creek in an hour, Hardy said.
Three deputies were hired for the unit with the use of the coal funds.
Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said it was money well spent.
"We've had very, very few complaints about response time and no complaints at all about visibility," Carper said. "It's been a phenomenal success."
Carper said the patrol takes nothing away from those smaller police departments and only brings more to the table with training and equipment.
Hardy attends the quarterly meetings of the Upper Kanawha Valley Mayors Association and said that he's heard nothing but praise for the three-deputy team.
He said the unit has made a great difference on officer response time. The commissioner said it didn't eliminate the need for the smaller police departments but enhanced the services provided to the citizens in the area.
The unit has had a direct impact on the enforcement of drug laws in that region, Hardy said.
The commissioner said of all the projects he's been a part of while on commission that he's most proud of the East City Patrol.
Recently, the City of Richwood dissolved their town's police department, which put the four officers including the police chief out of a job. None of the officers were certified - meaning they couldn't write tickets, arrest anyone or carry a firearm - and one had recently been arrested after allegedly stealing drugs from the department's evidence room.