Aurora police chief cites specific benefits of increased force that would come with levy's passage

by Mike Lesko | reporter Published:

Aurora -- If a proposed 1.2-mill police levy is approved, it would allow the police department to once again have a "community enhancement team," a program that Police Chief Seth Riewaldt said would greatly improve safety in the community.

The proposed five-year levy, which was suggested Jan. 14 by Mayor James Fisher, must be approved by City Council by Feb. 6 to appear on the May 7 primary election ballot.

Fisher said the levy would generate about $650,000 to $700,000 a year, and would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $33 to $36 more a year.

The levy would support the hiring of two patrol officers, one detective and one school resource officer, plus "the technology support that improves the effectiveness of our officers," Fisher said.

Riewaldt is excited about the possibility of increasing his department's capabilities.

"We consider ourselves efficient but very lean," Riewaldt said. "The city has a chance to decide if it wants a higher level of police service."

The police department currently has 26 full-time officers, he said.

Having another detective is obviously a plus, he said.

"We'd have time to investigate thefts that sometimes get put on the back burner because, unfortunately, we have to prioritize things," he said.

Riewaldt also is enthused about adding a second school resource officer.

An SRO promotes positive relations between youth and law enforcement, and provides education and counseling for students, allowing the SRO to take a proactive approach to law enforcement.

He declined to say where they'd be located.

"It will vary," he said, explaining the importance of potential bad guys not knowing exactly where the SROs would be stationed.

"We would be able to be in many more places by having a second SRO," he said. "It would give us a lot more options."

SO WOULD bringing back the department's community enhancement team, which typically involved a sergeant and two others officers.

Riewaldt said the community enhancement team's "uninterrupted focus" is what benefitted the city during the two years when it was in place a few years back. It allowed those officers to not respond to less serious calls, permitting them to focus on specific areas of law enforcement.

Instead, officers who are not on the community enhancement team would respond to the less serious calls.

Riewaldt said having more officers would allow the police more flexibility to patrol areas where there are more vehicular crashes, more seasonable thefts or in response to threats.

"We could get back to targeted enforcement," he said. "Once we got that freedom [previously], our crime rate went down."

Vehicle crashes resulting in injuries went down, too -- by 44 percent -- while the community enhancement team was in place, according to Fisher.

Riewaldt said that benefits residents because the average cost of a vehicle injury crash is about $70,000, which can include the loss of income plus the cost of medical treatment and rehabilitation.

"Heavy enforcement in high traffic crash areas is not to write tickets; it is to prevent injuries," he said. "When you put an economic cost on that, then you see how important it is. Most people don't realize the economic impact of a crash."

The community enhancement team was derailed when two retiring officers were not replaced, he said. "Now, I can't pull officers off the road to do special details," he said, but with the approval of the levy, that could change.

Riewaldt said officers on the community enhancement team still would respond to more serious crimes, but not "the more mundane calls." Other officers would respond instead.

"I'm enthusiastic about having that flexibility to have a couple officers who are not taking radio calls," he concluded.

Email: mlesko@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187

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