The president of the Provo Police Mutual Aid Association has asked the City Council to raise property taxes in order to hire more police officers and to increase officers' pay.
Population and economic growth have strained the police department's officers and resources to the breaking point, association president Bill Jones said. If residents want to maintain the quality of life they have in the city, they should be willing to pay for it."We've tightened our belts and done our job," Jones said. "We need the citizens of Provo to get involved - let us know if they are willing to pay to maintain the lifestyle we have here."
Expecting economic growth - and resulting sales tax monies - to fund city departments is unrealistic, Jones said. The department is looking at having the school district share the cost of officers working in schools, but other than that the only way to address the problem is to increase taxes, he said.
Jones said that just as the city's growth is predictable, so is the growth in crime.
"Not only has the city grown in the south end of the community, it has grown in the north end of the community," Jones said. "That growth is attracting people we don't want in the city. Provo's personality is changing just a little bit because of economic growth."
Jones said officers and employees in the police department are working harder and producing more than their counterparts in other cities - and for less money. He estimated that officers' work loads have increased 35 percent since 1985.
Much of that increase is in response to calls involving people who are not Provo residents; 37 percent of traffic accidents for example involve non-Provo residents. Jones said 40 percent of the people arrested by Provo officers are not residents of Provo.
"We are not dealing with just the population of students and residents that lives here," Jones said. "We are dealing with people who are coming to enjoy what we have here." Calls for service have increased greatly over the past several years, but the number of officers is at the level as it was in 1985, Jones said. The city's 1990 budget includes funds to hire three new officers, increasing the force from 64 to 67 officers. Even so, Provo has one of the lowest per capita ratios of officers to population in the nation, Jones said.
Nationally, there are two police officers per 1,000 population on average. In Utah, there is one officer per 1,000 population.
Provo would need to hire 15 more officers to reach the state average.
"During the same shift, on average, a Provo officer will handle 54 percent more calls for service than a Salt Lake City officer," Jones said.
Officers are showing strains of burnout out, Jones said. Because the department is short staffed, officers have trouble getting time off. And, there has been a high turnover in officers.
"Forty-one percent of our patrolmen have less than two years service." Jones said. They just don't have the experience and training.
Jones said he hoped the council would "see fit to spend money now rather than waiting for an emergency situation."
Mayor Joe Jenkins said, "There is no doubt about the facts that our people work very hard and that Provo residents get a damn good deal out of the police department.
"Our crime rates are much lower here than anywhere else and we want to make sure they stay that way," Jenkins said. "People in the community look to two areas mostly for services - police and fire."
However, Jenkins said the police department is not the only department to experience strains due to population and economic growth.
Jenkins said the city has been fair in spending its budget dollars.
"Police officers are underpaid," Jenkins said. "So are a lot of other employees." Jenkins said the city has allocated $350,000 to increase salaries based on the outcome of two compensation studies the city is completing.
But, Jenkins said "one thing we are not going to do it budget money we don't have or allocate one- time dollars."