Proposed Del Webb expansion may strain police services
Sept. 1, 2011 - With movement toward a 400 home expansion in Del Webb, the Mt. Juliet Police Department faces protecting an estimated 1,200-plus more citizens.
Del Webb officials have asked the Mt. Juliet Planning Commission to approve a 400 home expansion. Last week the request was deferred for three weeks. Some residents at Del Webb are against the expansion and Del Webb residents were given the chance to "vote" whether they were for or against. About 15 percent of the residents didn't vote. According to resident Beverly Gary, it ended up being 47 percent for the expansion and 53 percent against. The vote of the 15 percent who did not participate went to the "for" the expansion side.
According to Mt. Juliet Police Chief Andy Garrett, as of today there are a total of 44 police department employees. Twenty-nine of those patrol Mt. Juliet which has an estimated population of 25,000. The city did approve one full time officer and a dispatcher during the last budgeting session and they will start in January. However, Garrett noted the Municipal Technical Advisory Service stated in a 2008 report that back then the MJPD was short 20 officers. Garrett said that a 2010 FBI crime survey of police departments in the south states there should be 2.6 officers per 1,000 residents.
"If you ask any police chief they are going to say they need more officers," said Garrett.
"Safety of citizens is our priority and we will do what we need to do with what we've got."
He said year-to-date total crime is down 2 percent.
And while it takes awhile to build out 400 more homes, eventually the build out will strain the department even more. More than likely about 1,200 more residents will be in the MJPD jurisdiction, as well as about 800 more cars.
"We will have to expand the zone," said Garrett.
Currently there are four "zones" in the city police officers patrol. Garrett said he isn't betting on getting more approved officers.
"When you add territory you increase response time," said Garrett.
This can be critical on emergency calls and overall response time.
Garrett noted that he will study calls for service in all areas and when one area shows a zone with not so many, he will juggle officers. Currently, there are five officers scheduled per shift. However, sometimes circumstances make it fewer and then a decision is made whether to pay overtime.
"If somebody calls in sick or goes to a booking...I don't have any wiggle room," he said.
Officer numbers have increased over the last three years by four.
"I wish I had more to adjust accordingly," said Garrett.
The Mt. Juliet City Commission recently approved a 20 cent "fire tax." Garrett noted he wished it was allocated under the "umbrella" of emergency services, not just one part.
Earlier this year the city commission approved funds for an architectural drawing of a future police station. For a while discussions about the need for a new police building were in the forefront of commissioners' discussions, but Garrett said he has not heard anything new on the topic. Mt. Juliet's need for augmented fire and EMS services has dominated recent discussions.
Managing Editor Laurie Everett can be reached at 754-6397 or by email at email@example.com