Salt Lake County's suburban police departments are calling in reinforcements - adding more patrol officers, forming a new gang unit and increasing their support staffs.
The additions balance an almost across-the-board increase of police activity during 1993. With West Jordan and South Salt Lake the only exceptions, the county's seven suburban police departments saw service calls jump last year. West Valley City recorded a 25 percent increase.- A new gang unit will be on the streets in West Valley City by January to compensate for the city's growth and an increase in juvenile crime, West Valley Police Chief Dennis Nordfelt said. The unit, headed up by four officers and a sergeant, will concentrate solely on gang activity in high-crime areas.
The five positions will be filled by experienced personnel from within the department. New hires will replace them on the street.
When residents ask for more police to fight crime, "people think in terms of a uniformed officer in a marked police car," Nordfelt said. Yet, from the public's perspective, the hiring of six records clerks may be the most obvious improvement in department efficiency.
Calls for service more than doubled in recent years, yet the clerk staff remained basically the same, he said. At times, the backlog resulted in a delay of more than a month before the cases were assigned to a detective.
At best, the system has been clogged by the city's increased calls for police service. The addition of 20 new patrol officers during the current budget year has left the department's support staff overwhelmed, he said.
"This is a typical problem in a new and growing city," Nordfelt said. "But people expect that when a crime occurs and an officer responds to do an initial report, it will be assigned to a detective within hours."
- In Sandy, six new police officers will be hired - three on traffic patrol, two as juvenile investigators and one as a drug-use prevention officer in the city's 16 elementary schools.
"We have the largest juvenile population in the state, and over half of the crime committed is by juveniles," said Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan, adding that the city has the same number of traffic-patrol officers it had a decade ago.
The budget also has money for two additional firefighters and three new school-crossing guards, who are needed because Jordan School District's breakfast program draws pupils to school earlier than usual.
- West Jordan, a public safety department with shared fire and police duties, is scrambling to keep 11 police officers who were previously assigned at a federal housing complex on the Old Bingham Highway. The officers were hired five years ago as security for Soviet inspectors who monitored work at Hercules as part of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty.
Recent defense-related cuts caused West Jordan to lose the more than $200,000 annual contract and left the 11 officers without an assignment.
"We've had some really great support in our city administration to find other positions so we wouldn't have to lay them off," said West Jordan Police Sgt. Gary Cox. Together with the 11 officers, the city will likely get two more full-time patrol positions.
In 1993, West Jordan police calls dropped by more than 1,600 and fire calls increased by 38.
- South Salt Lake is adding two beat officers to replace a pair pulled from street duty - one assigned to public education in local schools, the other involved in community policing. The city has also hired another secretary for its detective division.
Service calls were down by 638 in South Salt Lake during 1993. But the figures only account for incidents assigned case numbers and may not accurately represent the department's activity, some say.
"That's a decrease in case numbers," said South Salt Lake officer Beau Babka. "But we don't take a case on every call. I would be willing to bet you could add 1,000 calls to that."
- Murray will get a DARE officer, a new community-oriented policing position and 10 new reservists with the budget year, said Murray police Lt. Dee Rowland. Major equipment purchases include nine police vehicles and an animal-control van.
A community service officer will handle walk-in reports and calls that may be resolved over the telephone - nearly 10 percent of the department's business, Rowland said. The new position frees up regular officers previously assigned to the light-duty position, he said.
- Midvale residents were briefly alarmed in mid-May after rumors circulated that budget cuts would force the elimination of a a city-sponsored neighborhood watch program. Homeowners showed up in force to a May 17 City Council meeting to object, but were reassured no such cuts were planned. The Midvale police officer assigned to coordinate the program has done much of it on overtime, but city planners are trying to create a more permanent position.
- In South Jordan, the department is adding two officer positions to supplement its patrol division, Chief John E. Parker said. Total calls for service, including animal control, jumped by 7.55 percent in 1993 from the previous year.