REDMOND, Ore. - The Redmond Police Department took 23,000 calls from the public in 2016. The department wants to add more officers to its police force, meaning a public safety fee could be in residents future.
The fee would help add more staff to handle the demand. Right now, police say there are not enough officers to keep up with the growth and needs of Redmond.
According to Redmond Police Lt. Curtis Chambers, the department has not kept up with the growth of the city.
The proposal explored by councilors Tuesday evening would mean adding a public safety fee of $6 to residents' monthly utility bills, raising enough revenues to add six more officers to the department.
The fee would be imposed on any developed home or business. It's not based on the size of a home, but the number of doors on the property.
"The fee gives us the ability to increase the number of police officers in our police department," said City Manager Keith Witcosky. "If we get to a point where crime is no longer an issue and we need (fewer) officers, that would be a wonderful place to be. But for the most part, this would be an ongoing fee for officers."
There are currently 38 sworn officers in the department and an average of 3.2 officers are on duty on any given day, working 12-hour shifts. That's 1.3 officers per 1,000 Redmond citizens. To put that in perspective, the state's average is 1.65 per 1,000 people. Police said this new fee would allow the average patrol team to increase to 4.4 officers per shift.
"It is to a point right now where the workload and the size of the community outsize what the department can offer in terms of staff," Witcosky said.
The city manager and police department presented the initiative to the city council for approval to move forward.
According to police, adding more officers would bring a stronger police presence and quicker response time, also adding more park and traffic safety patrols, and more time to spend on solving crimes.
Chambers said spreading the workload will allow officers to spend more time on an initial report, instead of jumping from one incident to the next. He also said this will help create a safer city.
"With six more officers, we can dedicate a two-officer, full-time street crimes team, which would target drug related offenses, which are the quality-of-life crimes," Chambers said. "It's theft from your vehicles and the burglary to your house while you're out in town."
Eleven other Oregon cities have approved similar public safety fees, with an average price of $5 extra per month, staff said.
Overall, Chambers said the added funding will help police provide better service and protection for the city. The average all-in-cost of an officer with equipment and a vehicle is $147,000.
Councilors gave the go-ahead for the police department and city manager's office to begin public outreach about the initiative. Staff said a possible implementation of the fee would not happen until spring of next year at the earliest.