With budget-related decisions approaching, Hughes’ presentation Tuesday, May 3, gave City Council members a preview of the changes in cost to maintain policing levels and services the city receives through its contract with the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, as well as the extra money it would take to bulk up coverage in the community. To keep the city’s contract as it is, Hughes estimated that costs would increase by about $266,093, totaling $606,093 for the next two years.
To implement her proposal — which would include buying two patrol cars, hiring another legal clerk and covering deputies’ benefits — the price for two years would roughly double to $1.2 million. Two new deputies would bolster police presence in town from less than one deputy per 1,000 residents to 1.5 deputies for the same number of residents, she said.
“While we all realize it is ultimately up to everyone to help in the effort of keeping a community safe, we also know that it is the responsibility of law enforcement to be the first line of defense for safety and protection,” Hughes said.
With that in mind, Hughes also noted that deputies have been able to maintain reasonable safety levels this year, despite crippling budget cuts and layoffs within the sheriff’s department.
Since January, she said, crime rates in Patterson have been on the decline, as compared with last year’s rates for offenses such as homicide, rape, felony thefts, vehicle thefts and robbery. According to Hughes, those types of crimes dropped in number from 102 to 80 in January; from 108 to 56 in February; and from 78 to 53 in March, compared with the same months a year before.
“Despite recent activity, we have actually seen our crime rates go down,” she said. “I would like to keep that trend going.”
Additionally, Hughes said she thinks renewing a contract with the sheriff’s department would be the best way for the city to keep up a quality police force. Benefits of that agreement, she said, give her staff a number of resources that would prove too costly for a city-run police department, such as access to a bomb squad, S.W.A.T. team, divers, K-9 unit, crime-scene unit, and mounted police officers.
Other advantages are that the sheriff’s department pays for expensive mandatory officer training, covers administrative costs, maintains record keeping and evidence collection and has a universal system for processing warrants, she said.
Council members agreed Tuesday night on the need for action to ensure local safety, but no formal vote was taken on the chief’s proposal. As budget discussions continue for the upcoming fiscal year, they said, they will consider Hughes’ plan more thoroughly.
“Obviously, we all want to get (our policing ratio) up to that goal, but with increasing costs and decreasing revenues, we’re really going to have to consider our options and hopefully find some way to shake down those numbers,” said Councilwoman Annette Smith.
Mayor Luis Molina agreed with Smith, asking for residents’ patience in the interim.
“I know people want answers now, but we need to carefully weigh our options,” Molina said. “In the meantime, we need to remember that it’s not just up to law enforcement to keep our community safe.
“As I’ve said before, we need to become better neighbors and better witnesses.”
• Contact Kendall Septon at 892-6187 or firstname.lastname@example.org.