FBI figures show violent crime in the city increased 7 percent last year compared to 2011. OKC police reported 5,474 violent crimes in 2012 and 5,108 in 2011.
“Obviously, you add officers to do a better job, and we need to eventually put the new officers in those areas where most of the crime is occurring,” Citty said.
The approval of 40 new officers to the force was among a handful of highlights for the 2013-2014 fiscal year budget, which topped the $1 billion mark for the first time. The new fiscal year begins July 1.
This year’s $197 million police budget includes $2.8 million for 37 new officers and three lieutenants. That’s a 6.5-percent increase over last year’s budget of $185 million, according to city Budget Director Doug Dowler.
Other top budget considerations included an additional $1 million for the city’s transit department and the rollover of salaries for 29 firefighters from grant funding to the general fund. That move upped general fund expenses by $2.38 million, according to Dowler.
The city also added seven jobs in the Public Works Department and four at the airports.
“This is probably the plainest and least controversial [budget] since I’ve been here,” City Manager Jim Couch said.
Police and fire departments were asked to cut a half percent while other departments cut 1 percent.
“We always do more with a little less,” Couch said, pointing to the 1-percent growth in city employees and the 16-percent increase in Oklahoma City’s population.
According to a 2012 survey, 66 percent of Oklahoma City citizens are satisfied with the quality of city services compared to 46 percent nationally. OKC has maintained a satisfaction rating of 63 to 70 percent since 2007, survey results show.
“We’ve always ranked high, so that shows the city is on the right track,” Couch said.
Crime figures up
The same can’t be said for OKC’s violent crime statistics, which showed a 6-percent increase in aggravated assaults in 2012, with almost 200 cases linked to gang drive-by shootings.
According to police, assaults have risen five of the last six years, with a slight decline in 2011. Police reported 2,740 assaults in 2006, but that figure since has jumped by more than 1,000 cases.
“This is what I worry about. This is a trend. We know that when aggravated assaults go up, homicides go up,” Citty told the Oklahoma City Council during a May presentation. OKC recorded 99 homicides in 2012, the city’s second-highest number in a single year since 1979 when 102 homicides occurred (and not including the 1995 federal building bombing). According to FBI stats, the number of reported rapes in OKC also rose sharply last year.
During his council presentation, Citty said the department’s goal is to reduce aggravated assaults by 5 percent during 2014.
The approval of 40 additional officers comes a year after 30 more officers were authorized by city council. Moreover, the department must fill 60 current vacancies.
Placing those officers on the street, however, takes time.
“You figure about six months of classroom training and another four months or so in the field with a training officer, and then they’re put on the street by themselves to take calls,” Citty said.
So far, none of the officers approved in last year’s budget have received training.
“We’ll start with two classes (academies) a year,” said the chief. “Probably this summer, to fill the vacancies and add the new positions, too,” In the interim, Citty is using those funds to pay officers overtime to work in the city’s more crime-ridden areas.
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