A growing drug problem and low police staffing levels are among the reasons the city of Trenton says it has placed a 5.25 mill police levy on the March ballot.
The funds would allow the city to hire as many as five police officers over time, according to Police Chief Arthur Scott, and replace or upgrade equipment like police cruisers, some of which are more than 10 years old.
“We’re kind of a fire zone here between Middletown and Hamilton,” Scott said. “And obviously a lot of things happen between the two. We’re in the middle so a lot of things pass through here we don’t have the capacity to deal with.”
One of those crime concerns is drug trafficking and drug use. Some of the $897,000 generated by the levy would allow Scott to designate an officer to work with the Butler County Drug Task Force.
“We don’t have the personnel to really reach out and try to deal with significant problems like this,” he said. “We kind of operate on a ‘as you see it we’ll deal with it.’ We don’t have the resources and manpower to pick up information and follow it through.”
If voters approve the measure, it will cost the owner of a $100,000 home about 50 cents a day or roughly $180 a year, according to Scott.
City Manager John Jones said state budget cuts have decimated the city’s general fund by almost $200,000 per year.
There are 13 people on the police force serving the city’s population of 12,500, including the chief, he said. That’s down from 17 people a decade ago when there were about 4,500 fewer people to protect.
“It’s a safety issue, it truly is,” Jones said. “If we are putting officers out there short-staffed, it’s a safety issue. And if drugs are coming in and through our community and we’re not addressing it, it’s a safety issue. It comes down to quality of life.”
Scott has been putting information about the levy on Facebook. Some responses from residents have called for the city to cut the fat from its budget first.
But Jones said that has been done for the past five years, and there is no more to cut. That’s one of the reasons, he said, that the city is seeking a permanent police levy, rather than one that is renewable every few years.
“The problem is if you do a levy and you pass it and it’s for say five years, and you hire four officers and get new equipment and five years from now it doesn’t pass, those quality officers you invested the last five years in, now you’ve got to let them go because you can’t afford them,” Jones said.
“We absolutely cannot afford to hire additional staff unless we pass a levy,” he said.
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