Bunkie businessman demands police protection, action on recent break-ins
Fri, 10/21/2016 - 05:00
Greg Kojis threatens to relocate his businesses
If the city cannot provide adequate police protection for its businesses, one Bunkie businessman said he will consider relocating some of his operations.
Greg Kojis addressed the City Council and Police Chief Bobby Corner at the council’s Oct. 13 meeting. He was joined by employees of his businesses and his brother, Avoyelles School Board member Van Kojis.
“It may not be at all the businesses in Bunkie, but I am having problems at my businesses,” Kojis said. “I don’t know the solution, but if it doesn’t change I will have no choice but to relocate Scott’s Ace Hardware and all the businesses under the GibKo name.”
Kojis owns at least 10 businesses in Bunkie and said he is upset with the excuses given when he asks the Bunkie Police Department for assistance.
“We are told they are undermanned, understaffed, or can’t come,” Kojis said. “We have even given the police names, what was taken and videos to show the crime, yet no one is ever arrested.”
Kojis said there have been break-ins in his businesses, vandalism at his washeterias and car washes, and windows in company vehicles shot out. He said there has been no arrest in any of those cases.
“I know of eight people that have been identified and should be arrested. They are on video,” Kojis said. “When will they be arrested.”
Kojis said Mayor Mike Robertson asked him to locate the hardware store in the city limits to help the city’s sales tax and property tax revenues. In exchange, Robertson said he would benefit from police protection. Kojis said he doesn’t have the police protection from the city. Employees that have called the Sheriff’s Office have been told that the store is just inside the city limits and is in the Bunkie Police jurisdiction.
“I shouldn’t have to beg for protection,” he said.
Kojis said he is posting photos at the entrance of the hardware store of people stealing from the store. He said the same people are still coming into the store and one even took a marker to cover his face on the photo.
“The criminals are not scared because they know the police will not come,” he continued. “I have made investments in Bunkie, but with no changes I will advise my children and grandchildren to go elsewhere. Bobby (Corner) this is your job.”
Corner said his department is doing the best it can to find the best officers. The problem is the hourly pay the city pays its officers, he noted, adding that officers are leaving Bunkie to work for Cottonport and Hessmer police departments.
BPD is the largest funded department in Bunkie with a $750,000 yearly budget. Kojis asked if Corner was full-time himself. Corner said he is an elected official, but his position is paid like a full-time officer.
It was noted that there were 12 full-time officers and a detective under former Police Chief Mary Fanara. Now there are only four full-time officers.
Council members have said they will not hire unqualified police officers for the department..
Councilwoman Brenda Sampson said the council has been trying to work with the chief to hire officers. She said Bunkie shouldn’t hire unqualified officers because it isn’t in the best interest of the city.
“Maybe Bunkie should look at contracting law enforcement to APSO,” Kojis said. “People when calling BPD are being told there is no manpower. What is going to happen when someone is shot. It will happen if nothing is done.”
Van Kojis said just recently someone kicked in the back door of the AT&T office and then fled in the middle of an afternoon. He said it took Bunkie Police over an hour to get to the scene. The officer who arrived said he couldn’t work with the chief.
Van Kojis said he carefully took a broken lock from a car wash to BPD and asked them to look for fingerprints. The dispatcher said no one could work on the fingerprints. He said she offered no other assistance.
Bunkie City Judge Digger Earles said if hourly pay is an issue, the city should look at dropping the health insurance the city provides and give the officers a larger hourly pay. He said the officers, who are mostly young, look for the pay and not health insurance coverage.
Armand said it was an option the city could study, but added that some officers are leaving the city because of the work environment. He said the city must have a detective on the police force.
“Tell me something to give me a direction to go in, but I need an answer tonight,” Kojis said. “If no one gives me an answer, I have no choice. Form a committee to recruit officers.” He added Corner has been in office for 2 1/2 years and it has gone downhill when it comes to police protection.
Corner said he has been trying to recruit officers. He said he ran for police chief wanting to change things that he thought were wrong with the law enforcement in Bunkie before he was elected.
“My budget has been cut and we won’t have a department if the budget is not there,” Corner said. After the meeting, some councilmen said the budget has not been cut and pointed to the $750,000 yearly budget.
“I will pay the $2 to $3 an hour for extra pay for the policemen if that is what it takes,” Kojis continued. “We don’t have weeks or months to correct this issue.”
Kojis asked Corner if he would commit to arrest the eight people quickly. Corner said he would start the next day.
“We don’t want businesses leaving Bunkie, we want them coming to Bunkie,” Sampson said. “We need to pinpoint these problems.”
Kojis added that business and industry will not come to Bunkie because of the problem with the police department.