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With only two officers left on staff, town of Bethel forced to shut down police department

The town of Bethel Police Department building.
Courtesy Carl Wilson
The Pitt County Sheriff’s Office will take over certain police operations in Bethel, N.C. for a three-month period after the town was forced to shutter its own police department.

The town of Bethel’s board of commissioners gave approval for the Pitt County Sheriff’s Department to cover certain police operations.

The Pitt County Sheriff’s Office is stepping up its enforcement in the Bethel area after the local police department was forced to cease operations over staffing issues.

The town of Bethel's board of commissioners voted last week to stop police operations because there was not enough coverage in the area with only two officers left on staff. Bethel Mayor Carl Wilson, who took over the role in January, said by the time they invested resources into the officers, they would leave.

“We've had so many officers that have come through that they stay a year or maybe two years,” he said. “And by the time you buy all the equipment and get everything … it was not cost-effective.”

The town has an estimated population of 1,373 representing over 800 households, according to 2020 census numbers.

The Pitt County Sheriff’s Office signed a three-month agreement to give the town of Bethel continuous coverage. The sheriff’s office will take over certain police operations.

“Well, one thing that they can do is enforce rules against people that like to ride four-wheelers on the streets and stuff like that,” he said. “But stuff like people putting furniture out in front of their house, would not be something they can serve a citation for.”

Wilson said the three-month agreement gives the board room to make changes along the way, in case they want to resume having a police force. For now, there is no set date to restart police operations.

WUNC's Laura Pellicer contributed to this report.

Sharryse Piggott is WUNC’s PM Reporter.
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