The Columbia Police Department is not immune to the financial problems facing the city. With agencies being asked to tighten their belts to try to close a $2 million budget gap, the department has been forced to consider new, more financially-viable policing strategies.
For example, the Police Department expects to generate increased revenue in the coming year with the implementation of its red light camera program and the addition of two traffic units.
The two cameras are located at the intersections of Providence Road and Broadway and Stadium Boulevard and Worley Street. The location of another 14 cameras will be decided by the end of the year. Violations at these intersections will result in a $120 fine including court costs.
Even without the cameras, the number of tickets issued for traffic violations has shot up significantly under new Police Chief Ken Burton. Burton said he expects traffic officers to write three citations per hour. He also asked the City Council to fund two more traffic officers in the FY 2010 budget. However, Burton has said that the shift is motivated by a desire to address dangerous driving and not to increase revenue through tickets.
At a budget work session last week, Burton also brought up the possibility of changing the way the department responds to private security alarms. Citing a 97 percent rate of false alarms, Burton asserted the department could save on man hours if officers didn't automatically respond to each alarm. He suggested business owners would have to verify each alarm themselves before calling police.
How much should financial considerations influence the decisions made by the Columbia Police Department?