Published DateCalls increasing, city calling for level-funded budget
When it comes to putting together next year's budget, the Berlin Police Department is between a rock and a hard place.
On one side, the calls for service are continuing to increase. Calls for service generally are up almost 10 percent, arrests are up 34 percent, felonies are up 10 percent, thefts and burglaries are up 15-17 percent and assaults are up 50 percent. Also, Police Chief Peter Morency told the Police Commission last Wednesday that at a meeting with parents after the Connecticut school shootings, they asked why the police didn't have officers in the school yard more.
“They don't understand that we're from call to call now, that there's just no time for that,” Morency said. “We get a lot of calls for service that we just can't meet.”
On the other side, the city has asked for a level funded budget, with a note that reducing the grant line items does not reduce the budget.
“It's going to be very difficult,” Morency said, and asked how the commission wished to proceed. Complicating the issue is the fact that it's a negotiating year.
“We can't afford to be down any officers, considering the activity,” Commission Chairman Steven Griffin said. “We can't jeopardize public safety. The question really is, do we have enough officers on staff now.”
It was decided the department would put together a proposed budget for the commission's review at its next meeting February 7.
In a related matter, Morency said there have been a couple of school threat issues.
“We don't take this lightly. We are investigating and will be prosecuting,” he said.
In other business, Morency said the proposed Nuisance Ordinance was scheduled to be presented at the public hearing at the city counsel meeting on January 7.
He said a couple of concerns have been expressed and he wants to make it clear that people don't get fined for calling the police department and the ordinance does give the police some leeway for handling people with mental health issues.
Morency reported he has been asked to serve on the Community Relations Board for the federal prison and that is something he would be interested in doing.
He reported that during the December 27 snowstorm, both a town and state police cruiser slid off the road and got stuck. Mr. Auto came and pulled both out and has refused to bill them for that service.
Relating to winter driving, Morency said overnight parking is still an issue, people are continuing to drive too fast for the conditions and that they are being impatient about waiting for their windshields to clear before driving. He also warned people involved in accidents not to leave the scene. If there is property damage they can be charged with a crime.
Morency said he wanted to recognize long-time crossing guard Irene Alonzo, who recently died at age 85. She was employed by the police department from February 1979 to October 2009.