An eight-minute response time. Major crimes up 62 percent in the past five years. The lowest staffing ratio in the East Valley. And no money set aside for new hires.
These are some of the challenges facing the Gilbert Police Department — and the reason a Town Council subcommittee is studying police service and funding.
"We told them where we want to end up at a certain point of time," Police Chief John Brewer said. "We’re seeing if that’s realistic and if they agree or disagree."
Councilmen Les Presmyk, Don Skousen and Steve Urie held the subcommittee’s first of four scheduled meetings last week. They will later present their findings and recommendations to the full council.
"What we are doing is determining the needs and what we expect of the police department and look at a method of funding," Skousen said.
During the meeting, Brewer provided a 33-page report that analyzed response times, crime statistics and staffing ratios.
Gilbert has a current staffing ratio of 0.95 officers per 1,000 residents. Tempe, Mesa, Scottsdale and Chandler have higher ratios with 2.04, 1.86, 1.58 and 1.42, respectively.
Brewer said past analysis concludes Gilbert should have a ratio of 1.3 officers per 1,000 people. He said this would allow officers to spend onethird of their time doing proactive work.
According to the report, 128 officers need to be hired by 2008 to reach that goal, yet the town has no money budgeted for any new positions.
The response time is eight minutes for top priority calls in which a person’s life, safety or property is under an "immediate" threat, according to a three-year average between 2000 and 2002. The department’s goal is four minutes, according to the report.
Crime is on the rise. Between 1998 and 2002, rape is up 283 percent, robbery up 63 percent, aggravated assault up 161 percent, burglary up 15 percent, theft up 89 percent and auto theft up 75 percent, while the population rose 46 percent, according to the report.
The crime rate per 1,000 people declined from 58 percent in 1990 to 32 percent in 2000, but rose to 36.7 percent in 2001 and 38.4 percent last year, according to the report.
Brewer said the department should hear this month if the town is awarded a federal grant to add 15 officers. Their salaries will be phased into Gilbert’s budget over several years.