SH police calls up slightly in last year

Sean C. Morgan

The total number of calls to the Sweet Home Police Department increased about 8 percent from 2012 to 2013.

The Sweet Home Police Department received 8,416 calls in 2013, up from 7,764 in 2012. Five years ago, police received 8,441 calls for service, and 10 years ago, they received 7,819.

Calls for service peaked in 2005 at 9,547, and 2012 had the fewest number of calls for service since then.

“It’s consistent with previous years,” said Police Chief Jeff Lynn. “Nothing jumps out as a serious uptick.”

Key crime statistics remained around typical levels, with a decrease in the number of criminal mischiefs and burglaries reported and an increase in the number of theft reports.

The city handled 93 burglary calls in 2013, down from 107 in 2012, which included a rash of burglaries early in the year. Police responded to 83 burglary calls in 2011, 92 in 2010, 196 in 2005 and 107 five years ago.

“Without a doubt, we’d like it to be lower, but for the most part, it’s consistent with what we’ve seen in previous years,” Lynn said.

Thefts, including unauthorized entry into motor vehicles, were up slightly, he said. In 2013, police received 451 reports, compared to 402 in 2012.

Police received 130 reports of criminal mischief in 2013, down from 162 in 2012.

Staffing levels remained around where they have the past couple of years.

The department has 14 authorized certified police officer positions, Lynn said. Of those, 13 are filled, including the police chief, two sergeants and a detective. Staffing levels were at their peak in 2008 with 17 certified police officers, including two detective positions.

“We really want to get our patrol service, the backbone of the department, back up to where they need to be at, and ideally, yes, we’d like to fill that detective position,” Lynn said.

Revenue projections remain tight going into the next fiscal year, 2014-15.

If the city takes no action, the Police Department is projected to have a shortfall of $760,000 for fiscal year 2014-15, which begins on July 1.

The shortfall for funding grows larger the following year, 2015-16, the final year of the current levy.

“We’ve done a really good job of lowering that figure,” Lynn said. Department officials have been operating in “fiscal crisis mode” and have been watching everything that goes out to minimize that figure.

City Manager Craig Martin said in October that the projections are arguably a worst-case scenario, and the city has been saving money where it can, leaving positions open, including one in Municipal Court and not filling the community development director position.

The city will deal with it during the budget process as staff members prepare budget proposals and then the Budget Committee reviews the proposals in the spring.