POSTED: Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - 6:14pm
UPDATED: Thursday, October 28, 2010 - 8:13am
The "Second Safest City" label, may be a moniker to be proud of, but it may be keeping some much needed patrol off our streets. And one area in particular is suffering.
The Pebble Hills area continues to expand, while the crime continues to grow.
"We need about 100 more officers to be adequately staffed," said Pebble Hills Commander Patrick Maloney.
Pebble Hills has seen a 3% increase in crime since this time last year. It's the only region that's seen an increase. Maloney says assaults and robberies are driving their crime numbers.
"We have more nightclubs that have opened up, more bars, and that generates more assaults," Maloney said. He also said the population in the region has gone up by about 25% in the last 10 years. They also have the highest volume of calls. So if you're calling about something minor, like a loud party, it may be a while until a unit can come out.
"Sometimes we can't make it to those calls for 4, 5, or 6 hours," Maloney said.
We checked the police-to-person ratio here in El Paso versus other cities. El Paso has a rate of 1.4 officers per 1,000 people. In comparison, Austin has 2 per 1,000. In order to achieve Austin's ratio, we'd need about 120 more officers.
"I'm led by the fact that we do have that safe city designation," said district 7 city representative Steve Ortega. He says because public safety already represents 65% of the city's budget. The city can't afford to add more officers to the force while keeping the tax rate the same.
"You're not going to be able to have that low tax rate and continue to fully fund law enforcement so we have to strike a balance," he said.
To offset the need for more officers, they've started handling more cases over the phone and they are overlapping officers' schedules to reduce the backlog of cases.
"We're doing the best we can and we know that," Maloney said.
Pebble Hills also wants to cut down on its traffic collisions. The list of intersections with the highest number of collisions just came out; over half of those intersections are in the Pebble Hills region.