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Resident state troopers protect small towns

Durham has an area of 23 square miles; Middlefield, 13. Neither town has a police department.

Instead, the towns rely on the resident state trooper program run by the Connecticut State Police, a program which assigns a trooper to cover the town day in and day out.

“We’re here to protect and serve. It’s not just speeding tickets,” said Sgt. Sal Calvo, the trooper who oversees the two resident troopers in the towns.

Calvo said the town of Durham was assigned a resident trooper when it started to grow. “The town became more populated. We started to see more occurrences of break-ins,” he said.

There were also fender-benders and other incidents that required a police officer. Thirty years ago, the middle of Durham was a gas station, a package store and a restaurant. Now, “it’s main street.”

While people would like to think Durham has low crime, Calvo said, “this is not 1986 anymore.”

For instances, these days the resident trooper in Durham, Peter DiGioia, often deals with break-ins. Residents will leave electronics in sight in unlocked cars, Calvo said, making easy targets.

Troopers deal with issues such as underage drinking as well. Calvo said in a recent survey, 21 percent of Durham and Middlefield youth 12 to 18 said they had a drink in the month before they were surveyed.

Troopers come from Troop F, stationed at the Westbrook Barracks, a 38-minute drive away from Middlefield Town Hall, according to Google Maps. Troopers can get there faster if they are responding to a “hot call.”

“Durham and Middlefield is the absolute outskirts of our coverage,” Calvo said.

Troop F covers Old Lyme east to the Guilford line and north to the Middletown/Meriden line.

Today, the state police keeps a trooper patrolling the area at all times. If an incident such as a domestic involving weapons, or a bank robbery happens in the area, a trooper can be there in minutes.

“As a law enforcement agency we never have a gap in coverage,” said Patrick Torneo, commanding officer of Troop F of the Westbrook Barracks.

One trooper is assigned to the area, but the Westbrook Barracks schedule patrols and roving troopers to ensure the towns have a police presence at all times.

The resident trooper program has a long history with the state police and is a vital part of the communities the program covers, Torneo said.

The resident trooper program is based in community policing theory. “Every community is a little different,” he said, and the resident trooper assigned to that town learns the in and outs of covering the town, building relationships, getting to know the students and the business owners.

“The resident trooper is going to know most of the people in the town,” he said.

As communities grow, and add to their populations, Torneo sees the resident trooper programs playing a greater role in those towns into the future.

First Selectman of Middlefield Jon Brayshaw said the resident state trooper brings features to the town that they could not get any way else.

“It’s a valuable asset. Not all towns have their very own state trooper,” he said. While the town has its own constables — they assist the state trooper by operating as officers — the state troopers “bring a different level of investigational resources,” along with access to the state police’s jails.

Brayshaw said the resident trooper program is one way the rural residents of Middlefield receive the benefits of state taxes.

“I think the citizens don’t get an awful lot for their tax money,” he said.

Larger cities get water, sewer and other amenities, Brayshaw said. The troopers bring a level of security and professionalism to the town. The resident trooper program is subsidized by the state. “It’s costly, but it’s worth it. What other perks do the people of Middlefield get?”

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