Manchester council debates addition of fourth town police officer

January 19, 1994|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

After the Jan. 5 robbery of a Manchester bank and the Jan. 8 robbery of a Hampstead bank -- and after a year-end police report revealed local increases in certain types of crime -- some ,, Manchester officials want to add a fourth officer to the town police force.

But other officials are not convinced residents will want to pay a property tax increase of several cents to cover the cost of an additional officer.

At the Jan. 11 Town Council meeting, Manchester Police Chief Donald M. Myers said he would seek money for an additional officer in the town budget for fiscal 1995.

But yesterday, Chief Myers said he may not request a fourth officer.

"I'll talk with the mayor and council and see what their feelings are," he said.

"They make the decisions. They pay the bills."

Chief Myers reported to the council that Manchester police investigated 834 complaints in 1993, up about 20 percent from the 699 complaints investigated in 1992.

Thefts were up from 44 in 1992 to 59 in 1993, he said.

L Breaking and entering complaints doubled from four to eight.

Drunk and disorderly complaints also doubled, from seven in 1992 to 14 in 1993.

Chief Myers said yesterday that the numbers indicate an increase in the willingness of people to report crimes, rather than an increase in crime.

"People are reporting more to us," he said. "It's no crime wave."

He also said an increase of a certain type of crime from seven complaints one year to 14 the next year may not be statistically meaningful. It may indicate the work of one person, he said.

After Chief Myers reported to the council, Councilman Robert Kolodziejski said his colleagues should consider budgeting the money to add a fourth police officer.

But Councilman Doug Myers said in an interview that, at this time, he is not sure a fourth officer is a good idea.

"I think three is enough. . . . It seems like we're just keeping up with the Joneses," Mr. Myers said.

But he said he would speak with residents and Manchester police officers to see what they think.

Mr. Myers said it may be possible to decrease response time by reworking the schedules of current officers, scheduling them to work more night hours when crimes tend to occur.

Chief Myers said a fourth officer might help reduce response times.

A fourth officer would not allow the department to have 24-hour coverage, he said, but it would allow increased hours of coverage.

He said the department cannot permanently schedule any of its officers for night duty, but must rotate their schedules.

Chief Myers said he could not comment on whether a fourth officer would help reduce crime in Manchester.

Town Manager Terry L. Short said an additional police officer would cost about $40,000 for salary, fringe benefits and equipment.

"What this is going to amount to is an 8-cent to 10-cent tax increase," he said.

But Manchester Mayor Earl A. J. "Tim" Warehime Jr. said that because the state would pay part of the officer's salary, the tax increase would not be that great.

Mayor Warehime said it would cost about $1,000 to outfit a new officer.

But he said the town began to set aside money to meet the equipment costs of an expanding police force in July, when the Town Council voted to assess a $200 safety fee against new residences in town.

Mr. Short said the town would also pursue other sources of money, including the federal government.

jTC Mayor Warehime said the town had sought some of the $50 million in federal money that was distributed last month to hire new police officers, but did not receive any.

He said adding an additional officer "has to be evaluated."

"I'm sure it would help, but you have to weigh whether we have a big crime rate or not. . . . I don't think we had a bad crime situation," he said.

Councilman Chris D'Amario said yesterday that he is undecided about the wisdom of hiring a fourth officer.

Before deciding, he said, he would like to wait for the scare from the bank robberies to subside, then ask residents whether they think a fourth officer would be worth a tax increase.

"I don't see any way of hiring another police officer without raising taxes considerably," Mr. D'Amario said.

Councilwoman Charlotte Collett said she supports an additional police officer.

She said another officer would improve coverage hours and might reduce response times.

It also might allow the Police Department to schedule more crime-prevention activities, she said.

Mrs. Collett said most residents "won't care" if they have to pay a small tax increase.

"When you really consider it, our tax rate is extremely low," she said, comparing Manchester's property tax rate of 41 cents per $100 of assessed value with Hampstead's tax rate of 50 cents.

L The town of Hampstead hired a fourth police officer in July.

Hampstead Police Chief Ken Russell said hiring a fourth officer has not caused Hampstead's crime rates to fall, but they have not risen as quickly as they might have without the fourth officer.

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