Politics » Politics Feature

WWH: 'More Taxes for More Cops"

Mayor asks for 50-cent property tax hike to curb "unacceptable" crime rate.

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Mayor Willie Herenton says the city needs 650 more police officers and a 50-cent increase in the property tax to pay for them.

Herenton met with reporters Thursday to respond to an increase in violent crime in the Memphis area that he called “unacceptable.” He said it will take at least two years to hire and train the new officers, and he urged members of the Memphis City Council to support his request for a tax increase even though 2007 is an election year.

Herenton also wants to join with businesses in creating 5,000 new summer jobs for Memphis youth, add nine new police mini-precincts, increase police overtime, and relax hiring requirements for new officers as far as college education and Memphis residency.

The mayor gave his police director, Larry Godwin, a vote of confidence, but he added “we need more manpower.” The needs include 500 patrolmen and 150 officers to work in the Memphis City Schools, which have seen sporadic incidents of violence this year. Godwin said there have been 540,000 calls for service between January and September and 46,000 arrests including 8,000 felonies. There has also been an increase in the number of crimes committed by females, Godwin said. The police director said there is no evidence of a New Orleans factor in the crime reports. Herenton’s goal is to put Memphis in the upper half of urban areas as far as officers per 1,000 citizens. Currently Memphis has 3.0 officers per 1,000, and with the increase the ratio would be 3.75 per 1,000.

The proposal will cost $47.7 million by 2010, according to figures passed out by the mayor’s staff.

Herenton said he was driven to act by statistical reports and personal conversations with Godwin and rank-and-file police officers in the field.

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