ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–Police report crime was down dramatically for March, but now there are major budget problems to deal with.
Overall crime fell two-percent in March compared to a year ago. That’s good news after a 23 percent spike in crime in January. Now Chief Sam Dotson is facing about $5 million in budget cuts.
“I’ve been in several capacities in the police department, in the chief’s office and the board office and gone through challenging budgets,” Dotson said, “I’ve been on the city side as Director of Operations for Mayor Slay. I’ve done the budget cycle there. This is the most challenging that I’ve seen.”
Despite a three-percent increase in the police budget this year, adding another $5 million to the $176 million police budget, Dotson says rising pension, health care and salary costs have added “about double” what the increase was. Also, the department is facing an impending cutback in federal funding that now pays for twenty officers on the street.
To keep the police force at 1,265 officers, Dotson plans to leave 34 civilian positions vacant, and he supports a plan being pushed by Mayor Slay to transfer $650,000 from the city’s cable TV division to the police department.
Slay’s plan would need the support of at least one more member of the city’s spending board, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment. That means either Comptroller Darlene Green or Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, who just lost a bitter race for mayor to Slay, would have to vote in support of Slay’s plan.
Meanwhile, the crime report for March showed improvements in most crime categories. Citywide crimes against persons was down twenty percent. Property crime fell more than three percent. Overall crime was down 2.2 percent.
Looking at crime by categories in March, murder was up 17.4 percent, rape up 59.2 percent (an increase blamed on new federally-imposed reporting procedures for rape), robbery fell 21.7 percent, aggravated assault dropped 25.4 percent, burglary was down 13.5 percent, larceny declined 11.5 percent , vehicle theft was down six-percent and arson fell fourteen percent.