Abbotsford Police ask for $1 million more in budget

Budget request represents 1.1 per cent increase in city taxes.

Abbotsford Police Deputy Chief Len Georke

Abbotsford Police Deputy Chief Len Georke

The Abbotsford Police Department (APD) has asked city council to approve an operating budget increase of 4.5 per cent, representing a 1.1 per cent tax increase.

The 2012 police budget, presented at Monday’s city council meeting, totals $41.7 million – a $1-million increase over 2011.

Len Goerke, deputy chief in charge of administration, said the increase is due to rising costs – such as contracted wage hikes – and previously delayed expenses, including vehicle operation.

He said 85 per cent of the budget is devoted to wages and benefits.

Goerke said an additional $200,000 in vehicle operating costs – such as maintenance and repairs – has been factored into this year’s budget, after putting them off for two years.

“You can’t run a local police department without having properly running cars and well-equipped cars … We need to have a viable fleet,” he said.

Also included in the 2012 budget is the hiring of one new officer for the crime reduction unit (CRU) to partly make up for two that were previously transferred to the gang suppression unit.

The CRU targets prolific offenders, such as car thieves and burglars through surveillance and other tactics. It has felt the impact of losing resources, Goerke said.

Another position prioritized for the budget is a network analyst to help the APD manage its increasing use of sophisticated technology, including mobile data terminals.

“You can imagine the data we gather. The security concerns around it are pretty high.”

Goerke said the APD is currently running at an effective level, citing a 29 per cent drop in overall crime in the last three years, and will need to maintain those levels over the coming years.

“We don’t want to slip back,” he said.

He said if the 2012 police budget is approved the APD will be running at a capacity of one officer for every 671 residents. Ideally, the department would like to be at a ratio of 1:650.

An expected 1.4 per cent population growth in the coming two years means the APD will need to hire 3.5 more officers per year to reach that ratio, he said.

The APD currently has 216 police officers and 83 civilian staff. Last year’s police budget made up two per cent of the city’s 4.5 per cent tax increase and was a 6.9 per cent increase over the 2010 police budget.

Abbotsford city council is currently debating the 2012 budget.