Reinforcements are on the way.
Red Deer RCMP will add six new police officers and three municipal employees to its ranks.
The new hires will bring the force’s tally of men and women in uniform to 155 from 149.
Council approved $1.1 million for the new recruits over two years on the fourth day of the 2016 operating budget talks on Monday. Half of which impacts this year’s budget and the rest will be slated for 2017.
Following the meeting, RCMP Supt. Scott Tod said the new officers may work in a number of the units including community safety, traffic, fraud or other front-line policing.
He said the new recruits will definitely not be working in administrative roles.
Police officers in Red Deer typically handle 179 cases per officer compared to the provincial average of 95 cases per officer working in other municipally-funded RCMP detachments.
“Realistically six more members does not lower the case burden significantly,” said Tod. “However it is a really good start. It is a great indication of the support of council and the importance of policing in the community.”
Six additional officers will reduce the load to 172.
“It’s definitely a move in the right direction,” said Tod.
Tod told council the case per load impacts the amount of time the officer has to do proactive policing.
“It affects their work and life balance,” said Tod. “It also affects our ability to attract members to work in this community. Members shop around. They look at the case burden per member .. but it also puts us in a position where we are deploying our resources. Sometimes I have to make decisions to re-deploy resources out of specialized and support units which are not popular but have to be done in order to support front-line policing.”
The case load burden per officer went up slightly in 2015.
No specific numbers were given but Tod has the downtown in the economy on his radar for possible spikes in property and domestic abuse crimes.
He said it is through the regional Priority Crimes Task Force and other approaches that the police will be successful.
Three municipal employees for the police department were approved.
Community safety has always been one of the top priority’s according to the city’s Ipsos Reid surveys.
Coun. Ken Johnston said while the community wants a safe community, it is an expensive proposition.
“We can’t police our way to a safe community,” said Johnston, who sits on the city’s ad hoc community safety committee. “We can only ask our police to do so much. The burden for a safe community rests on all of us from a safe community perspective … I am optimistic that we will come up with .. a fundamentally good plan around community safety that we will be able to deliver to the community sometime this year.”
Mayor Tara Veer said the city is sitting at a 3.08 per cent tax hike which includes one per cent for the capital savings plan and .37 per cent in direct provincial downloads.
“The remainder is 1.71 per cent operational increase is what we are looking for this year,” said Veer. “This line item is about one third of that which is reflective of the comments around the table. The fact is community safety has continually been identified for us from our citizens in the top three priorities for … concerns.”
Council also approved three additional staff to extend the hours of the non-emergency (Priority 3) complaint phone line to the tune of $161,690.
Since May 2015 when the call line was implemented, 1,977 files did not require an officer’s presence. About 46 per cent of non-emergency calls are being diverted from RCMP. They are being handled and some are going to bylaw or back to RCMP for files to be created.
Calls are currently answered between 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The new staff will allow the centre to extend the hours until 10 p.m. to cover peak periods seven days a week.
The majority of the calls come during the lunch hour or in the evening after 4:30 pm. The highest call volume comes in between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. and 53 per cent come in between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Tod said the calls will be handed on a more timely fashion when the new hires.
There are currently four staff working out of the centre.
Council heard the increased staffing will help reduce caseloads, improve response to calls for service, reduce the percentage of calls not attended and improve follow up responses to serious investigations.
Day 5 of the operating budget talks continue on Tuesday. The deliberations are scheduled until Friday.
The proposed tax increase on the $341-million budget is sitting at 3.08 per cent.