Additional sales tax monies will fund expansions in Police Department
PRESCOTT VALLEY – Town officials again affirmed in April the way police will use their portion of a half-cent sales tax increase that went into effect at the start of the fiscal year.
“We will be adding eight sworn and four non-sworn positions within the agency,” Deputy Chief James Edelstein said at a Town Council meeting April 21. “These services will help keep our community safe as we experience significant growth.”
Edelstein and representatives from the Police Department’s existing divisions explained some of the ways they’ll use the additional revenue, estimated at $1.2 million to be shared with the town’s streets department.
Officer Brad Penner, field services division, noted the cost of a non-injury collision is about $3,000, excluding lost time and attorney costs. An injury adds about $15,000 to the cost and fatalities can add millions.
Penner said the additional resources within the division will allow greater outreach into the community for prevention efforts.
He said the department hopes to specifically do more in schools.
“If we can get in there and try to make an impression about seatbelts and speed and very simple things, we can actually make a difference,” Penner said. “It goes way beyond writing traffic tickets.”
Officer Traces Gordon, community services division, said the new revenue will bring back the police citizens academy, so residents can better understand what goes into police work.
It will also fund a block watch program and a business watch program. Gordon said the two programs are similar, with one focused on residential communities and the other on businesses.
She said she started a business watch program when she had a similar role in Prescott.
“We teach business owners and managers how to look out for themselves and their business,” Gordon said.
Officer James Tobin, criminal investigations division, said the tax increase will pay for plans to add a second detective in the family violence unit.
He said domestic violence reports in Prescott Valley have grown from about 650 in 2010 to nearly 1,000 in 2015.
“Some people might think that’s bad because the domestic violence is growing out of control,” Tobin said. “But I choose to look at it another way. I think what’s happening is through raising awareness and talking about this issue – making resources available, prevent and education efforts – people who had been victims in the past now feel more confident about coming forward.”
He said the additional detective will give the department seven-day coverage in the family violence unit, reducing the demands on patrol officers.
Edelstein said in addition to expanding the department’s three main division, he hopes to create a problem-oriented policing unit. He said the flexibility of the new police unit would allow the department to respond to specific community needs as they arise.
“An example would be the problems and specific challenges that we might face if we had a full-time residential college campus here in Prescott Valley,” he said.
Edelstein said other changes include a records technician to help address the backlog of record-keeping tasks in the department, an administrative assistant to assist command staff, and the promotion of two part-time evidence technicians to full-time.
“Evidence retention rules and increased amounts of impounded evidence retention rules have caused a significant increase in the workload in our evidence section,” Edelstein said.
He said one of the broader goals in expanding staff is to allow current staff more flexibility to use their paid leave.
“I want to be clear, if this tax is somehow repealed, all of these positions and the associated services that they will provide will go away,” he said.
Councilman Richard Anderson acknowledged a sentiment among some community members that the council acted too quickly when they passed the increase in the fall of 2015.
“I for one am grateful that we were able to act quickly enough to provide for this community the type of police services that we so badly needed,” he said.
Councilman Stephen Marshall wondered about body cameras, which he had thought would be part of the police budget.
“Hopefully, if revenues maintain their balance and upward trend, next year we will start looking at cameras,” Town Manager Larry Tarkowski said. “There are none this year because the need for officer overrides the need for that technology today.”