The city wants to bring back the auxiliary police force, if the unions agree.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
CITY HALL REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mayor Jay Williams said he will ask city council to increase the police department's budget for overtime expenses in an ongoing effort to combat crime.
While it may not be a popular political decision, Williams said Tuesday that he will ask that the city's 2007 budget, expected to be adopted by council next month, include additional funding for police overtime.
"We'll watch it closely, but we need more money to do patrolling" in high-crime areas, Williams said at a council safety committee meeting.
The mayor didn't have his requested police overtime amount available at Tuesday's meeting. The amount could fluctuate depending on the amount of criminal activity that occurs in the city, he added.
Final figures for police overtime for 2006 should be available shortly. The city's 2006 general fund budget included 1,135,000 for police overtime.
Police overtime costs have increased steadily in recent years.
In 2005, the amount was 1,436,649 compared with 1,079,075 in 2004 and 939,186 in 2003, according to figures listed in Youngstown's 2006 general fund budget.
"We're going to manage overtime, but we need to spend it," Williams said. "I want people to know up front that we need to spend more money on overtime so it doesn't come as a surprise."
The city also wants to reinstate an auxiliary police force, last used in Youngstown in the 1970s, Williams said. The city is in contract negotiations with its three police unions, and bringing back the auxiliary force is part of those talks, he said. All of the union contracts expired Dec. 31.
"We're looking at it very closely," he said. The auxiliary force would "complement and not [replace] our police officers. There will be some resistance to this, but we believe it's well worth some of the difficulties we may have" from the unions to bring back auxiliary officers.
Williams wants the auxiliary force in place sometime this year.
"The crime rate in this city is unacceptably high," he said. "It's higher here than in other cities of our size."
What police are doing
Police Chief Jimmy Hughes said at Tuesday's meeting that the department is putting more officers in the neighborhoods and on patrol. The department is also being proactive when it comes to fighting crime, he said.
"We respond to any information or leads on crime or future crimes," Hughes said. "We're establishing task forces that will anticipate crime before it happens."
But with violent crime on the rise nationwide, there is only so much a police department can do, he said.
"It takes on a life of its own," Hughes said of violent crimes. "There's nothing we can do about a domestic or a drug deal gone bad."
Councilman Artis Gillam Sr., D-1st, the chairman of council's safety committee, said reducing the crime rate is key to the future of the city.
"Keeping crime down will help our town grow," he said. "With the murders, people are afraid and we want to stop that. With a concerted effort, we can stop that."