Today's Question: Should the police department's finances influence decisions?

Monday, August 31, 2009 | 10:09 a.m. CDT

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?

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K H August 31, 2009 | 5:18 p.m.

? about the false alarm policy. The Police Chief states he wants the person on the contact list to check out the alarm first before police respond.

What happens when the person on the contact list is unable to respond due to the actions of the criminal?

Does the police not respond until after the alarm company can't get a hold of anyone.

(Report Comment)
Lee Jones August 31, 2009 | 6:46 p.m.

The Chief has it right...
Don’t blame the cops, blame your alarm supplier. Remember, an alarm system is a private contract for private service from a private firm. Police are not part of the contract. Nearly all calls for help from alarm monitoring firms simply mean they want “help” to complete their monitoring process with a free site inspection….. to determine IF an emergency, not because of an emergency. Said differently, the alarm industry technology is so outdated and sloppy that nearly all site inspections (police response) are unnecessary. A nationwide false alarm epidemic is solved by “zero tolerance programs” like proposed. Maybe even fining the monitoring firm for calling in false police reports. If your alarm supplier continues to abuse your police department, change alarm suppliers.

(Report Comment)

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