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Police Department Sees Nine Percent Reduction in Crime

Police commissioner says department had a "very strong year" in traffic enforcement, which aids in deterring crime.

The Garden City Police Department is requesting two police officers and one additional civilian officer to serve as a dispatcher in its proposed $8.933 million budget for personnel.

The department is currently funded for 50 officers, 13 civilian officers and 10 crossing guards. This budget request, however, is for 52 officers, 14 civilian officers and 11 crossing guards, according to police commissioner Kenneth Jackson, who noted the current civil service list is nearing the end of its life and a new list is expected shortly.

Overtime costs are running slightly higher than last year, much due to Superstorm Sandy. "Historically based on 55 officers, the last few years we've had to hold that line and use it as a barometer," Jackson said. "We have less officers and we try to maintain that budget. That's a task that's been given to us and we've been pretty good or pretty close to it. This year we're running slightly higher on overtime and we're doing what we can to maintain that line."

Jackson did note that overtime costs are $10,000 less than last year and $11,000 the year before, year to year per month. "So we've made some inroads in overtime," he said.

The department has seen a 23 percent increase in traffic tickets during the last year but 2,000 less in parking tickets. "Superstorm Sandy really wreaked havoc on ticket writing," Jackson said, noting that an officer resignation and another out on illness is also adding to the situation.

Overall, Jackson said, the department had a "very strong year" in traffic enforcement. "It is important to the village, it makes the roads safer and deters crime," he said.

The department saw a nine percent reduction in crime reports and 82 less cases this year. "Solvability has gone up significantly," Jackson said.

With the village board's 2012 approval of another crossing guard, now stationed at an intersection near Stratford School, the 11 guards cost approximately $100,000 per year.

Trustee Brian Daughney suggested a recalculation at the end of the school year because "population shifts" may change the current need. Finance chair Andrew Cavanaugh quickly reminded the board that it was the trustees who approved the additional guard.

Jackson said the department's received positive feedback from residents regarding Seventh Street foot patrols, noting the officer has had "one on one experiences," has helped many citizens "find their way" and has even picked up information to help solve cases.

Over the last two years the department has seen an increase in aided cases relating to drugs, with 24 marijuana arrests last year alone. Heroin overdoses and arrests are also on the rise.

"I think every jurisdiction is prone to this at this point in time. It's cheaper and much easier to obtain," Jackson said, adding that the department is also seeing a jump in cocaine activity.

Cavanaugh feels the department is covering "very well" with its current contingent of 50 officers. "We didn't have to call upon additional overtime reserves to do that," he said, "so it may be that two officers would be a luxury."

Jackson, however, said the department is vulnerable, especially when an officer gets sick or vacation season kicks in.

"My job is to keep the village safe. we can always keep it safer," he said.

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