GREENWOOD, Ind. – A Greenwood City Council member said city leaders should curb the expansion of the city’s population until public safety personnel can catch up with the growth.
“Add and add and add, but we don’t really see the same kind of additions to our staffing levels,” At-Large Republican Brad Pendleton said. “If we’re looking to increase the population and things like that, then we should be looking to go step by step with public safety.”
The comments come after a recent city council meeting in which the council approved the annexation of approximately 67 acres of land east of I-65 for a new apartment complex and seniors’ residence. . However, Pendleton raised similar concerns about the city’s plan to convert the former Greenwood Middle School into a mixed-use residential and commercial property. Although Pendleton doesn’t think Greenwood is becoming unsafe, he feels the city’s growth is outstripping public safety resources.
Over the past decade, Greenwood’s population has grown from about 50,000 to about 64,000. According to FBI staffing guidelines, a town of this size should have about 108 police officers. Greenwood currently has 74 officers, according to Chief Jim Ison.
However, Ison said the numbers don’t tell the whole story, and there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for public safety staffing.
“What Greenwood needs to serve a population of about 64,000 may not be the same as, say, Gary, Indiana needs,” Chief Ison said.
While FBI guidelines can serve as a good benchmark, Ison thinks Greenwood realistically needs about 90 agents to catch up with current growth. He said he based that decision on Greenwood crime statistics and analysis.
“We have our fair share of crimes, but most of our crimes are property crimes,” Ison said. “Crime of opportunity, vehicle break-ins, shoplifting at our business facilities.”
Ison said Greenwood is working to grow the police department. However, not everything will happen all at once. City officials said it would cost about $6.8 million to immediately bring public safety staffing levels up to FBI and National Fire Prevention Association standards. It’s not something the city can put in its next budget.
Mayor Mark Myers accused Pendleton of complaining about the staffing problem without offering solutions to fix it.
“Mr. Pendleton has been repeatedly invited to come and review the budgets,” Myers said in a statement. “He chose not to.”
“You can be part of the problem or part of the solution,” Myers added. “So far it’s not helping to find a solution.”
“I don’t know if it all comes down to dollars and cents,” Pendleton said. “I think there are other ways to solve this problem, like slowing population growth where we can.”
Ison and Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers currently plan to add three new officers to the department each year for the next five years. In the meantime, Greenwood PD continues to emphasize the use of new technologies such as license plate readers and radar “black boxes” to more effectively direct patrols throughout the city.
“We don’t have a lot of fat to cut, I wouldn’t say that,” Ison said. “But we can operate very efficiently with what we have.”
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