Fresno's proposed budget boosts public safety

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- During the seven years of recession, Fresno lost 150 police officers. Now that the economy has turned around, Mayor Ashley Swearengin says the plan is to start rebuilding the force.

"This budget proposes significant increases in public safety staffing and equipment," said Swearengin.

Police Chief Jerry Dyer says the additional resources are needed to fight a suddenly rising crime rate.

"In spite of the fact we had four consecutive years of violent crime decreases, as I said, 4 percent, 6 percent, 7 percent and 7 percent, this year unfortunately we are up just over 13 percent in violent crime," said Dyer.

Swearengin is proposing adding more than 40 new police officers, along with 50 new police cars, and more than a dozen motorcycles. The Skywatch helicopter would also be in the air a couple of more days a week.

The mayor is also proposing adding nine firefighters and more trucks and equipment. Fire Chief Keri Donis says the additional firefighters would boost minimum staffing and improve response times.

"It improves firefighter safety to have an increased minimum daily staffing but it improves public safety," said Donis.

It will be up to the City Council to approve the increases. Council member Lee Brand says revenue is now flowing into city coffers.

"Fresno is one of the leading job growth cities in the United States right now, so your traditional revenues, property taxes, property values have went up dramatically in the last two years, sales tax, economic activity, hotel tax, business tax," said Brand.

The city is anticipating a $1.5 billion budget and is expected to rebound from a $40 million deficit to a $15 million surplus. The City Council will start considering the mayor's budget plans next month.

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