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Oxnard Seeks to Hire More Police

If the City Council approves, eight officers would be added as part of a five-year plan.

November 19, 2002|Sandra Murillo | Times Staff Writer

After cutting crime in half over the last decade, Oxnard officials hope to make their city even safer by hiring eight more police officers as part of a five-year plan to beef up law enforcement.

At tonight's City Council meeting, City Manager Edmund Sotelo will request that about $700,000 be set aside in next year's budget to increase the number of uniformed officers to 217.

Officials said the new forces are needed to meet the demands of a fast-growing city.

"If you compare us to some other cities in Ventura County, we're handling double the number of calls," said Assistant Police Chief John Crombach. "So, yes, we need additional resources."

Officials said they cannot say for sure how many officers would be hired by the end of five years.

"We're still working on the master plan," Sotelo said. "Every year is different, and it's impossible to tell how many officers" will eventually be added.

Sotelo said his request is not related to recent gang violence. He said officials have been planning to augment the police force for years but had to wait until the city had the money.

The new hiring would come about six years after the City Council committed $3.5 million annually to hire 31 more officers despite a declining budget.

Sotelo said he is reviewing all city services, but officials said a top priority is public safety.

"I think in terms of our residents as a whole, public safety usually is in the forefront of people's minds," said Assistant City Manager Karen Burnham.

City officials said money to hire the officers would come from a $25-million city reserve fund.

The new hires would not result in a decrease in other city services, officials said.

"This is not money that is allocated for any other programs," Burnham said. "This expense, at this point, won't take money from the parks budget or any other department. This action has no relation to other services in town."

Sotelo said officials have discussed hiring more officers for years.

"If you take a look at Oxnard, you see that there's been significant [population] growth in the past several years," he said. "With that growth comes a demand for more services."

Oxnard has about 182,000 residents, about 40,000 more than in 1990.

Police Chief Art Lopez said the new officers would primarily be patrol officers, allowing others to work on crime prevention programs.

"The city wants better service," Lopez said.

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