By Lyndsie Ferrell
DEL NORTE— During a work session held on June 27 town board members spoke with the public about what they could do as a town to be able to afford additional officers for the local police department. Several residents voiced their concerns that the rise in thefts and criminal activity in town during the last two years is directly related to the fact that the town did not have proper police coverage and that the town board needs to find funding in order to be able to hire additional officers.
The town recently asked that a survey be sent out to town residents asking them for ideas on how to afford to pay for additional officers. The survey has yet to take place, but was brought up as an idea that may help direct the town to other funding options. Mayor Chris Trujillo posed a question to the attending crowd, stating, “Right now, with only three officers on duty, including the police chief, no one has the time to seek funding options or grants that may help with the cost of hiring new officers. Would anyone be willing to allow a one to two cents sales tax increase to help pay for additional officers?”
Those in attendance felt that increasing the sales tax by one to two percent is a possible solution to the issue, but also feel that because the town has limited sales tax from local businesses it won’t fix the funding problem. “We can increase the sales tax all we want, but until we get the people in town to pay the sales tax, it is not going to do us much good,” stated a concerned citizen.
Town Administrator Bernadette Martinez explained that a one cent tax increase could potentially result in an additional estimated $130,000 that would help pay for up to two additional officers. “This is the most practical and efficient way to get more officers for the town,” stated Martinez.
Citizens also stated during the discussion that only having three officers on duty is a safety issue, not only for the public, but for the officers as well. “We can’t complain about the crime if we are not willing to pay, but these officers deserve to have backup when they respond to calls in our town. We need to support our officers and keep them safe. We need to look at the bottom line which is the fact that we can not continue to do this with only three officers.”
Other members of the public voiced their concerns that the town is not in full support of law enforcement officials, to which Trujillo responded that is not the case. “We have always been in support of law enforcement and it angers me to think that the public doesn’t see that. We are not going to have a crap shoot tonight or argue about whether or not the town is in support of the police. We support the police. Lets get the public survey sent out, get the funding and get officers out on our streets.”
Residents of the town should receive a survey to voice their thoughts on whether or not a sales tax increase would resolve the law enforcement issue by the end of August.