DIXMOOR, Ill. (STMW) — The Cook County Sheriff’s office continued its recent expansion of crime-fighting duties in the suburbs when it agreed Monday to take over the midnight shift for the Dixmoor Police Department.

In 2008, Sheriff Tom Dart took over patrols in south suburban Ford Heights after that village disbanded its police department because of budget woes. The sheriff’s office also has a regular police presence in south suburban Dolton, supplementing that police department’s patrols.

The agreement to patrol Dixmoor — an impoverished town of nearly 4,000 people — came after two Dixmoor police officers walked off their jobs on the midnight shift early Sunday to protest their work conditions, said Cara Smith, chief of policy and communication for Dart. She said the sheriff’s office responded to the walkout by dispatching a sheriff’s sergeant and three sheriff’s officers to patrol Dixmoor on the midnight shift.

On Monday, sheriff’s officials met with Dixmoor Police Chief Robert Fox and agreed to provide two sheriff’s patrol cars on the midnight shift until at least Aug. 14, when Dixmoor’s board of trustees can consider whether to hire new officers, Smith said.

Dixmoor has five full-time cops and four part-time officers, which Smith called “a skeletal staffing structure at best. They don’t have a bench to pull from.”

Michael Smith, a Dixmoor trustee, said: “I want to do what’s best for the community. I plan to vote to make sure we have officers on our streets.”

Asked if the town has money for more officers in its police budget of just over $1 million, Smith said he doesn’t sit on the finance committee and doesn’t know the specifics of Dixmoor’s financial situation. But he added, “Everybody in the south suburbs is struggling and tapped for funds. Dixmoor is in the same situation.”

Traditionally, the sheriff’s key duties have been running the Cook County Jail and patrolling unincorporated areas of Cook County. The sheriff’s patrols in Ford Heights, Dixmoor and Dolton are part of the office’s expanding role in the suburbs.

“The sheriff is doing a yeoman’s job in assisting all of the communities out here whenever our manpower is down,” Fox said.

In recent months, Dart also has agreed to serve as inspector general of Dolton and west suburban Maywood to root out corruption in those towns. Dart sent a letter to the almost 130 municipalities in Cook County other than Chicago offering the same service to them.

In February, Dart created a gun team with the primary mission of recovering revoked Firearm Owner’s Identification cards from people throughout Cook County’s suburbs — and seize any guns they have. More than 3,000 people in Cook County have failed to surrender their revoked FOID cards to the state. Through July, the gun team had recovered more than 160 FOID cards and seized more than 160 guns from people whose cards were revoked.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)