City fathers considering addition of third community service officer.

You know you’re having a bad day when you’re caught doing something illegal, not just by a law officer, but by the chief of police. Such was the case recently when three individuals who were trespassing in a Sodalis Nature Preserve mine found Lyndell Davis, Hannibal police chief, waiting for them when they emerged.

Davis was enjoying Sodalis with his family one day when he heard faint voices coming from one of the gated mines.

“After a little bit I could hear somebody on a cell phone and it sounded like there was more than one person in there. The next thing I knew I was hearing like a stereo booming,” he recalled.

Davis waited patiently until three people — two adult males and a juvenile male — climbed out. After introducing himself to the trio he walked them out of the preserve, turning them over to waiting HPD officers.

The fact Davis was in the right place at the right time was a stroke of good luck for those who want to see protected the winter habitat of endangered Indiana bats. In the future, however, luck may not play as much of a role in apprehending individuals doing things they shouldn’t in the Hannibal park system.

Funding for a third Community Service Officer (CSO) is contained in the proposed 2017-18 Hannibal city budget, which was the focus of a Committee of the Whole Council budget work session Wednesday evening at City Hall.

“The two (CSOs) we have right now frequently patrol Huckleberry and Riverview as it is because they get calls about loose animals or people dumping trash, so it’s not unusual that you would see them in a park. If we get the third one we’ll be able to more actively have a presence in the parks and particularly Sodalis since it’s not accessible to vehicle traffic,” said Davis.

Andy Dorian, director of the Hannibal Parks and Recreation Department, supports the proposal.

“They’ll be going through the parks and through Sodalis for good chunks of time,” he said during the April Park Board meeting. “I’m pretty excited. It’s something Chief Davis and I have been talking about for years now.”

“We think we need to have a presence up there for people to feel more secure,” said Davis. “There’s going to be issues up there from time to time. It would keep people from tampering with the caves and hopefully cut down on some of the vandalism. It would also be helpful to people if somebody would be walking and need some sort of medical attention or just need assistance.”

Currently, an appearance by an HPD officer in Sodalis is rare.

“We have encouraged the officers when staffing is full on a particular day and they have the time to try to make an appearance up here, but regularly patrolling it would be problematic. We’re not going to be up there as frequently as we’d like. It’s remote and especially in the hotter months (officers) carrying all the equipment would probably be a bit of a task, so having a CSO officer being dedicated to patrol that (Sodalis) frequently would be good,” said Davis.

According to Dorian his department would help pay for the third CSO.

“We can’t afford to hire a ranger division like other parks departments can; we just don’t have the budget for that. This is a good way to have something similar,” he said.

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com