Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cops Don't Live Here Anymore.....

Mark Sanders from the Santa Fe Reporter has an excellent cover story in this weeks Reporter detailing the fact that most cops who work in the city and county of Santa Fe, don't live here. Its a very in depth article and Mark did an great job of showing both the effects on the community and the officers themselves. Santa Fe is reaching critical mass as far as law enforcement officers living 30-60 miles away verses them living in the city and county. One item he touched on was the take home car program. It is a very beneficial program used by most police agencies in New Mexico. As both the City and County pass the 60% mark of officers who live outside the county we lose many benefits of the take home car program. Officers are allowed to take home their police cruisers for several reasons.

  1. They can respond directly to an emergency with out going to the police station first when they are off duty and called out in an emergency.

  2. They can respond to accidents, emergencies or reckless driving while en route to and from work and help on situations which they may drive up on.

  3. Police presence in the neighborhoods reduce crime, (the police cars visible in neighborhoods).

  4. Cars assigned to individual officers tends to reduce wear and tear and cars are kept in better condition because one individual is responsible for the vehicle, verses a motor pool type situation where many people use the same vehicle.

  5. Take home vehicles are used as a perk to attract and retain personnel.
    It is an especially effective recruiting tool because other law enforcement agencies in the region have similar vehicle use policies for their officers. It stands to reason that a take-home policy would make an agency more competitive for the most qualified job applicants.

  6. Take home vehicles let officers keep their special equipment, such as SWAT gear, organized and readily at hand.

As you can see from the list of benefits the take home cars make sense. However we lose some of the benefits when officers live 30 -60 miles away.

  1. Officers still help when they encounter crime or accidents on their way to and from work however many times the help comes to citizens outside their jurisdiction so their ability to take action is limited.

  2. There is still an increased police presence in neighborhoods but the benefit is for neighborhoods in other cities and counties which have more affordable housing. The City and County of Santa Fe is paying for safety and security of other communities.

  3. While cars are still better maintained by individual officers versus motor pools the increased wear and tear put on by the increased mileage may negate some of the benefits. Gas costs are also greatly increased by the increased distances to and from home.

As you can see we start to lose the benefits of take home cars as we allow the costs to live here to be beyond the reach of our civil servants. When we look at the true cost to not have affordable housing in Santa Fe city and county it goes beyond simple dollars and cents. We start to encroach on the actual safety and security of our residents. Think about, doctors, nurses, firefighters, teachers and other essential personnel who are often needed in emergencies or whose shortage of available personnel is even worse in Santa Fe due to its high housing costs. What is the true cost of not ensuring we have housing available at all income levels?

There is much controversy over the proposed city transfer tax on high end homes in Santa Fe. The Transfer tax is designed to raise funds for affordable housing projects in the city of Santa Fe. There is probably many ways including the transfer tax to combat this problem and there is much disagreement on the best way to tackle the issue. However, we must tackle the issue. There is more than increased gas costs for take home vehicles on the line. The safety, security and sustainability of the county and city are at stake.

The Santa Fe Reporter article described Aspen, Colo., where the median home cost is so prohibitive (more than $6 million in the first quarter of 2008 for a single family structure) that the city has begun a lottery system for police department heads and emergency responders.“They get them at a reduced cost,” Sgt. Chip Seamans of the Aspen Police Department says. Department employees are eligible for the lottery after five years. The city then determines the cost of the property based on income. So depending on income, a new cop might pay $100,000 and a chief might pay $300,000 for a house. In either case, Seamans says, it is a great deal.“To be able to purchase a home in Aspen proper is a bit of a stretch for any government worker,” Seamans says, noting the starting pay for a rookie is $7 an hour better than in Santa Fe—$22.03.

We have probably already reached the point where we should consider this type of system for Santa Fe. There are those who would oppose this, at least until their home is burglarized, or until the S.W.A.T. team takes 50 minutes to respond to their emergency. I hate to bring up these instances since they could be thought of as scare tactics but it is the truth. Sometimes the truth is scary.


George said...

It is too easy to spew statistics but difficult to do your homework. We have tons of affordable housing in Santa Fe, all you have to do is spend a Saturday afternoon looking around and you'll be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers.
I don't understand why the SWAT team would take 50 minutes to respond to an emergency...does your SWAT team sit at their own homes awaiting an emergency call or are they at work? Scaring people into paying more money for protection is, you said it, scare tactics...I think that it was widely used by Mobsters...perhaps still is.
I don't know why I bother to write this response, I doubt that you'll post it!

Sheriff Greg Solano said...

Yes, you can find affordable homes in Santa Fe, I know because only 6 years ago I looked and found one. However when you compare what you can get here to what you get in say, Rio Rancho, many decide to buy there. I wanted to live in Santa Fe so I chose to buy an older home in a decent nieghborhood.

Many officers decide to opt for the bigger, new home in Rio Rancho where your dollars go a lot further. I talk about this situation not to scare people but so citizens understand the facts. Santa Fe is a smaller community and does not have a full time S.W.A.T. team either in the city or the county. When a S.W.A.T. situation occurs if some of the members are on duty they report directly to the scene. For any who are off duty they are on call and are brought in from home or where ever they are to respond. Thank you for your comment.