Beefing Up The ‘Blue’

City’s Draft Budget Includes Funding For More Police Positions

Posted: April 24, 2013

Harrisonburg Police Department Cpl. Chris Terrrell, a veteran of 15 years on patrol, works his beat in the city on Tuesday. City Council held a public hearing Tuesday night on its proposed budget, which includes funding for 5.5 more police positions: four patrol officers, an investigator and a part-time secretary. (Photos by Nikki Fox / DN-R)
Harrisonburg Police Department Cpl. Chris Terrell assists a fellow officer on a traffic stop on Tuesday. The city’s new draft budget includes an enhanced police presence.
HARRISONBURG — As the Harrisonburg Police Department grows, so will law enforcement’s presence in city neighborhoods.

In the city’s draft budget for fiscal 2014, which begins July 1, five new full-time positions are created for HPD: four patrol officers and an investigator.

Also, a 25-hour-per-week secretary would be hired if City Council approves the budget request.

The positions cost about $370,000, Police Chief Steve Monticelli said.

City Council held a public hearing on the budget Tuesday night, and then scheduled a work session on it for May 1.

Nobody spoke at the hearing about HPD’s request.

Monticelli said adding four patrol officers will give the department six for each 12-hour shift. One of the department’s “pretty blatant” issues is that the five officers it has patrolling on shifts now is too low a number, he said.

“If there were two large parties [getting out of hand], that could literally take the entire five officers off the street until that incident is rectified,” the chief said before Tuesday’s hearing. “It was getting to the point where it was hard to get backup.”

Monticelli, who took over as chief at HPD last summer, wants to increase the time patrol officers spend on “geographic policing” — driving through neighborhoods, attending neighborhood watch meetings, watching traffic and more.

He abides by a rule of thirds: an officer should spend one-third of the time handling calls; one-third on administrative duties, such as going to court; and one-third geographic policing.

The goal, Monticelli said, is to find the cause of a recurring issue.

“We’re actively going though a whole mindset change in the officers’ minds,” he said. “With modern policing, we want to deal with the problem. … The large parties [for example], every weekend I could send troops out there and arrest the underage drinkers. But is that really fixing the problem? The problem is where are they getting the alcohol.”

He adds that police can often be incorrect to think it’s the “big stuff,” such as burglaries, that plague neighborhoods.

“It’s the quality-of-life issues, the loud music or people driving through the street being loud at 2 a.m.,” Monticelli said. “We’re really trying to give us more leverage to better protect the community and the citizens.”

The investigator position, meanwhile, will give HPD its sixth in such a role. It will focus on general investigations and push another investigator back onto focusing solely on computer crimes.

Monticelli said he requested three more investigators, but he is “very appreciative” City Manager Kurt Hodgen could fund one, for about $73,000, in the budget.

Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or pknight@dnronline.com



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