Crime. Violence. Drugs. The Savannah-Chatham Metro Police chief asked for 65 new officers to help fight all of those.
However, after a public disagreement over the departments needs and the request by the city to show results and not "blame lack of funding for the crime problem," Chief Willie Lovett did not exactly get everything he asked for in the new proposed 2013 City of Savannah budget.
Monday afternoon, city council had their first reading of the proposed budget, which is far from finished or approved.
Acting city manager Stephanie Cutter called it a balanced budget with no mileage rate increase. However, the Chief's request for 65 new officers to fill out a juvenile crime unit, specialized event officers and a new street drug unit was cut down to just 26 officers.
Cutter says those officers are going to be devoted to the street drug unit, which as already been assembled in a small scale effort and is expected to be in full operation by the end of 2013.
WTOC reached out to Chief Lovett who issued this statement:
"I am appreciative that Mayor and Council recognize the developing challenges we face and understand the need to add resources. We are moving ahead with the formation of the drug unit and I firmly believe that it will be a major component in suppressing crime in our jurisdiction. As we continue to demonstrate success, I feel certain our city leaders will continue to support our efforts," Lovett said.
Cutter says it's a compromise, with the juvenile crime and specialized event officers possibly added at a later time.
"Those will come over a period of time I am sure," Cutter said. "In meantime, we will re-allocate existing resources to provide the necessary focus on street level drug crimes."
This is council's first look after changes and requests from departments were taken into consideration. Not all of them were happy with what they saw.
"I think we have some real challenges trying to balance the needs with resources this year especially in the area of public safety," Alderman Tony Thomas said. "My hope is that staff will continue to explore every option available to us in order to meet the needs without raising the mileage rate."
A second reading of the budget, when it is expected to be passed, is set for Dec. 13. More changes to the budget are expected between now and then.