Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dunwoody City Council nixes request for more police officers - Dunwoody Reporter (May be added back into the budget on Monday)

 Dunwoody City Council
  Courtesy of Melissa Weinman of the Dunwoody Reporter

A divided Dunwoody City Council decided to remove a new police unit from the city’s proposed 2012 budget.

The council debated the merits of adding four new officers during a discussion about Dunwoody’s budget at a meeting Oct. 10. The council will vote on the final 2012 budget Oct. 24.

Police Chief Billy Grogan asked the council for funding to create a new crime response unit that would be concentrated in problem areas to address high rates of crime and traffic. The annual cost of the unit was estimated to be about $270,000.

Grogan said the unit would use data to work proactively to devise plans to reduce incidents around the city.
“They would not be tied to answering calls for service,” Grogan said.

Grogan said the four officers would work together as a unit and their shift would rotate depending on needs in the city.

Council members had different views on adding additional officers. Some, like Denis Shortal, said they felt comfortable with the city’s current number of police officers.

“As of this time, I’m satisfied with what we’re doing,” Shortal said. “Prudent fiscal responsibility says we’ve spent (additional funds) for enhanced 911 service. I think that’s an adequate increase in police services for the year 2012.”

The city council voted last year to use a private 911 operating center. On Oct. 3, the 911 authority known as ChatComm took over answering emergency calls for the city of Dunwoody. ChatComm, which also serves Sandy Springs and Johns Creek, will cost a little more than $1 million per year.

Others, like John Heneghan, feel the additional officers are needed to keep the city safe.

Heneghan asked Grogan if Dunwoody qualifies as the “bank robbery capital of Georgia” following the six bank robberies that have occurred in the city this year.

“I’m not satisfied,” Heneghan said. “You’re asking for these additional resources and I believe you need them. I’m looking for a group of officers that … can be proactive, look at statistics, look at the needs of the city of Dunwoody and meet those needs. I think that’s a reasonable request.”

Councilman Robert Wittenstein, who served on the city’s budget committee, said this was a contentious issue during the budgeting process.

“The budget committee met for many hours and there were very few things we couldn’t reach a consensus on and this was one of them,” Wittenstein said.

5 comments:

Jack B. Nimble said...

This is a no brainer. I will not vote for anyone against adding the police unit.

I was not in favor of expanding the boundaries of Dunwoody because I believed crime statistics would go up. They have.

To the people who think they can do without more police, now, I say, wait until you add parks where more people come into the city from other areas.

Police Grogan is the expert here. Give him the manpower he needs to keep Dunwoody safe.

Joe Seconder said...

If I come to the council meeting Monday night, here's a preview of my Public Comments:
a) In general, the council needs to start having SEPARATE Public Hearings on big ticket ongoing expenditures well in advance on items like ChatComm 911, Parks Bonds or even Greenways. Instead of putting these on a work session agenda and having a line item for Public Comments, there needs to be time spent in advance to let the greater public come in and have some 2-way dialogue.

b) I'd like to have a volunteer citizens oversight committee to review the budget and hold separate public hearings.

c) When comparing our Police Budget, start looking at Apples to Apples. Bring in ALL of the INPUTS and use SIMILAR jurisdictions. In our 2012 Budget on page 128, the chart compares Dunwoody with the likes of Dalton, Smyrna and Douglasville. Hmmm? I know some people have carpeting in their homes, but I don't know what we have in common with Dalton. Are we in competion with Smyrna or Douglasville in attracting homeowners? What about comparing us with the same cities that the Carl Vinson Institute used when we were studying to become a city: Sandy Springs, Milton and Johns Creek? Here's some of their metrics compared with ours:

1. Millage Rate: S. Springs & Milton = 4.731. Johns Creek = 4.614. Dunwoody = 2.74

2. Percent Police cost to total budget: S. Springs = 20% Milton = 14.5% Johns Creek = 20% Dunwoody = 27%

3. Ratio of Uniformed/Sworn Police to Population per 1,000
S. Springs = 0.7 Milton = 1.0 Johns Creek = (Can't find nbr) Dunwoody = 1.0

The Carl Vinson Institute recommended in 2009 dollars an annual on-going budget for police of approximately $2.7M. Our 2012 proposed budget is $5.7M

Are we talking "Guns verses Butter" here? I recall hearing Mayor Wright state in a session something like, "I don't ever envision the city having a full-fledged Parks & Rec department"... like our neighboring cities do. Think any families might be interested in that, too? Something has to give. Let's have a balanced approach. We have MANY MORE police than we did when we were under DeKalb. You want more funds, well then hold a couple of separate public hearings and ask them if the 911 system was broken when we were under DeKalb. I've NEVER had a single resident complain about it. So switch back to DeKalb, and then we've got another $1.1M in the annual budget to use. Secondly, ask the PCID with their self-taxing 4 mils budget to chip in for patrols.

Joe Seconder said...

One more thought:

Lastly, take an “all of the above” perspective to crime. Instead things like hosting international police officers visiting us, let’s focus on our own backyard. Start up and train residents and the management in the multi-family housing for neighborhood watches, go through Police Citizens academy, and engage them to be proactive in their communities. Heck, maybe we could get some of them to come to the council meetings and be represented on some of our standing committees, too. We need to do a better job of outreach and engagement with these populations.

DunwoodyTalk said...

Joe,

I have seen and heard about Dunwoody's "low" millage rate. One line item absent from Dunwoody but not absent from comparison cities like Sandy Springs is Fire/Emergency Services. Add on at least 15% to our current millage rate to get closer to the apples to apples comparison.

Rick

Joe Seconder said...

Thanks, Rick. I appreciate the clarification as it can be confusing. Even with 15% more, that still is significantly less than our neighbors.