Solving the city’s shooting issues a complex problem
Shootings seem to be happening with far too much regularity in the City of Williamsport these days. With last week’s fatal shooting on Brandon Avenue, seven people have died from shootings in the city in less than 10 months in 2015.
Fighting this increasing violence and a heroin epidemic that has a lot to do with it is a police force of 50, one below the budgeted amount of 51.
Mayor Gabriel J. Campana is calling for more police and says his budget proposal will call for that. City Council leadership does not necessarily disagree with him. Council has authorized the administration to use a $419,000 U.S. Department of Justice grant to hire more cops. The grant would enable the city to pay for the salaries of two officers for the first three years, with costs borne by the city for the final year.
Council’s only request is that the city set aside money in the first three years to pay for the fourth year. The possibility that gas impact fees can be used to fund police staffing also is worthy of consideration. The impact fees have served many important local purposes. None can be greater than the safety of the community’s residents.
There are three key factors in play on this issue. Clearly, the heroin epidemic must be curbed. It is a contributing factor in the violence without a doubt.
Second, the rest of the city budget including an expensive pension bill can’t be neglected. Everyone wants more police, but paying for them within the limits of the city’s taxbase and taxpayers is another matter.
Finally, would the presence of a public safety director be helpful? We favor the most limited bureaucracy possible, but given the city’s violence and drug issues, the pros and cons of additional leadership on these issues should be considered.