More policing urged

The RCMP wants to boost its ranks by 33 officers over the next three years to keep a lid on crime.
In a budget city council will begin reviewing Tuesday, the department asks for nine officers this year, 12 in 2014 and 12 in 2014. Nine civilian employees are also requested.
The force currently has 83 officers — including 48 available for front-line duty — and 27 civilians.
Councillor Bev Hughes, who attended a budget preview at City Hall on Thursday, said policing is a hot issue.
“In the past year, I’ve had more phone calls with regards to RCMP services than any other issue in the city,” said Hughes.
“What that says to me is that come budget time I need to take a very close at what is being proposed.”
Hughes said he still has some questions about policing levels and wants to look closely at the number of officers in other areas and their workloads.
“It’s very difficult to take a look at other municipalities and try to make a comparison.”
Hughes echoed comments made by the mayor last month that a tax increase is likely. But he didn’t want to start talking numbers.
“I wouldn’t want to start spouting off numbers at this point. I think it’s generally accepted that we’re likely to have an increase.”
Mayor Gail Surkan also saw police and fire protection as key issues for council this year to meet expectations in a rapidly growing community.
“I think there are things almost everyone acknowledges will be a priority.
“We know with the kind of growth we have and with the kind of increasing complexity we have in this community that things like police services are important to people.”
“The message this year is there are pressures coming that can no longer be put off.”
Tax increases are not likely to be less than the rate of inflation, she said.
York’s rapid growth and changes in police work that has made it more time-consuming to investigate and solve crimes have put pressure on police over the last 10 years, says the RCMP budget.
“The workload has outpaced the capacity of the police to adequately respond to the needs of the communities and other partners, and affects ability of the police to properly investigate and solve crime.”
The budget says in recent years the “public has lost faith in the police to solve less serious crimes.
“To a certain extent, this is justified as the police must focus their efforts on serious crimes, generally involving violence.”
It would cost the city $513,000 more to hire nine officers for half a year in 2014. Another $175,000 would be needed to hire the three civilians and cover some relief shifts.
About $1.6 million more would be needed in 2014 and $1.5 million in 2014 if council agreed to all the policing changes.
The dramatic expansion of police comes only a year after council agreed to boost its fire department by 24 fire-medics over five years. Five were hired last year and five more are in this year’s budget. It will cost about $206,000 to pay for a half year. It takes about six months before new fire-medics can be trained and brought on staff.
The extra staff are needed to meet expected response times and in anticipation that ambulance calls will continue to grow by 10 per cent a year, says the Emergency Services budget.
The city’s base operating budget is about $116 million. Last year’s budget was passed at $107 million, but about $5 million was added during the year, mostly for land development.
City council will look at 93 different items over the next three weeks to determine what it can afford.
If all were approved, $3.3 million would be added to the budget. That would add about $72 to the average $803 tax bill for a typical home valued at $137,900.
Council has limited flexibility on some items. For instance, $1.4 million must be added to the budget to meet wage increases for city workers. The city employs about 1,050 full- and part-time workers.
The capital budget, which pays for roads, bridges and equipment, is $53 million, up from $40 million last year.
Councillor Lorna Watkinson-Zimmer said the city will face a challenge paying for capital projects, especially since the province cut $2.5 million from transportation grants this year.