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Springfield chief to use surplus
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
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Police Chief Paula C. Meara said yesterday that she will use surplus funds in her budget for overtime to expand street patrols, including increased attention to the downtown.

The surplus could be $600,000 or more due to vacancies caused by attrition, Meara said. The use of the funds could be extended beyond the fiscal year ending June 30, she said.

"It will make a tremendous difference on the number of officers on the street," Meara said.

The effort will include downtown walking patrols beginning this week, with a minimum of four additional officers split between daytime and early evening shifts Monday through Friday, Meara said.

"The officers are looking forward to it and are anxious to get out there," Meara said.

There will also be "park and walk" patrols in the each of the nine sectors of the city, Meara said.

Finance Control Board Executive Director Philip Puccia said the board has supported the effort to expand police presence on the streets.

Stuart J. Hurwitz, general manager of the downtown convention center nearing completion, said yesterday he is excited by the news of the expanded police presence.

"It's exactly the direction we should be going," he said.

Hurwitz said last week that the efforts to market Springfield as a convention city were hampered by reduced police visibility downtown. The Police Commission recently created a committee to work with downtown business representatives to ensure a stronger police presence.

Meara said she agrees with Hurwitz that police presence "is critical to the recovery of any city," and critical for public safety.

The control board voted to hire back 17 police officers, 17 civilian employees and six cadets last September to fill vacancies and is not supporting the hiring of additional officers at this time, Meara said.

Police Commission Chairman Timothy J. Ryan said yesterday he wants the department to rely as much as possible on using its officers on regular hours, rather than overtime, for the increased downtown presence. He said it may be possible to increase police visibility downtown through better deployment.

"I want to make sure we're doing it prudently and effectively," Ryan said. "Let's use it strategically."

Meara announced earlier this month that the city will receive $450,000 in state funds this fiscal year to increase the police presence on the streets to concentrate on hot crime spots, primarily through overtime. Another state infusion of $450,000 is slated for next fiscal year.
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