The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday December 3rd

Carrboro Cops Should Draft Fiscal Wish List

There might as well be a "Help Wanted" sign on the door to the Carrboro police station.

The town not only has fewer full-time employees in its police department per resident than other towns of the same size; it also can't seem to fill the positions it does have in its budget.

According to a study compiled by the Mooresville Police Department, to which most of the departments in the state contributed data, Carrboro's 1999 budget provided for 37 full-time employees and had a population of 15,137.

That's one employee for every 409 residents. Compare that with the average in the state for town's of about 15,000 residents, and Carrboro comes up short.

The average was 348 residents per employee. Carrboro had the highest ratio, and Laurinburg came in a distant second with 364 residents per employee.

The community police officer who works at Abbey Court Condominiums, formerly Old Well Condominiums, has been assigned to patrol duty for almost a month now because there aren't enough officers to devote some to specific areas in Carrboro.

That's not to say the department isn't doing a good job.

Carrboro is by no means a high-crime town, so the department must be using the resources it does have effectively.

Besides, Carrboro, at just 4.4 square miles, is the smallest town geographically of the six towns with similar populations.

Police Capt. Joel Booker considers that small size an advantage when it comes to dealing with crime.

"We could leave from the far end of town and jog downtown in eight minutes," he said.

While you can ride your bike through Carrboro in about 10 minutes, many of the other towns of 15,000 are spread out, so they need more officers.

But crime also has risen in the last year in Carrboro.

While in 1998 and 1997 the town was below average in number of violent crimes, such as rape and assault, it had an above-average number in 1999.

It might be premature to worry about rocketing crime in Carrboro just because crime rates rise for one year, but it's important to take notice so the trend doesn't continue.

And Booker recognizes this. He said while he thinks the department is performing well, he wants it to go beyond its current performance level, and he's likely to add more staff positions to do that.

He would like the administrative office to be open more than 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday so people can get information more easily.

As someone who often needs access to police reports, I would certainly welcome that change.

But what about the positions already there that the department can't fill?

Maybe a better place to put money is in equipment. Booker said there's a need for updated equipment and technology and the training that goes with it.

And equipment and training can be easier to get than manpower.

"Everything we do involving the investigation of crime is becoming very scientific," Booker said.

Carrboro's budget covers July 1 to June 30, so the police department won't see any new money for nine more months, but it's not too early to start thinking about what the department needs.

Alderman Mark Dorosin said if Police Chief Carolyn Hutchison said she didn't have enough resources, the Board of Aldermen would have to consider increasing the department's budget.

But he said everything police department officials want is probably not in the cards.

"There are fiscal constraints, unfortunately, that prevent us from having everything we want."

Columnist Erin Mendell can be reached at mendell@email.unc.edu.


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