KENNEWICK, Wash.-- Kennewick's police chief says his department doesn't have enough police officers to meet the quickly growing population.
The city council is working to change that to keep the community safe. Kennewick Police say they need more police officers and they've needed them for a while.
The amount of violent crime in Kennewick has risen 16 percent in the last year. The Department says the need to meet the population size with additional officers is more crucial now than ever.
"What we don't want to see happen is we don't want to get into a position where we get so far behind we're never able to get close to catching up," said Chief Ken Hohenberg.
Kennewick Police have an average of 1.21 officers for every one thousand people. That ratio is higher than the state average of 1.41. To meet the state average, they need 15 more police officers added to their staff of 90. One police officer costs 100 thousand dollars a year and with a tight budget, the Kennewick City Council is considering how to address the need in a growing city.
"We recognize that because the citizens so dearly want to make sure we're safe and of course that's been the councils priority that we're placing within our budget, the police force, fire department, emergency services, as our number one priority," said Kennewick Mayor Steve Young.
A citizen's survey in Kennewick found that 70 percent of people want their tax dollars to go toward law enforcement. The jump in violent crime has citizens concerned and Kennewick Police are reaching out to other agencies for help with recent gang sweeps. But violent gang activity keeps going up and officers are working over time to keep Kennewick a safe place to live.
"It has continued to increase even though we've been so relentless and we're aggressive in dealing with it. So my message is we need more help. We truly need more help. I know that the men and women of the Kennewick police department are getting tired," Hohenberg said.
The Kennewick City Council will discuss the need for more officers at Tuesday night's meeting and how to fit it in the budget that needs to be completed in November. Mayor Young says he's hopeful the council will approve an additional three officers next year.
Friday, May 24 2013 1:56 AM EDT2013-05-24 05:56:46 GMT
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