They may not be the most glamorous members of the Minneapolis Police Department, but they are central to addressing issues around the community. Now, the jobs of five crime prevention specialists are under the budget axe as the department tries to balance its books for 2012.
These are examples of the "difficult cuts" Mayor RT Rybak promised last month in order to keep property tax increases down for next year.
The crime prevention specialists "keep us on track" in addressing neighborhood problems, Police Chief Tim Dolan said at a budget hearing Wednesday morning.
The specialists also help residents deal with chronic, quality-of-life issues such as party houses or problem rental properties while working with crime-fighting block clubs.
Of 18 specialists city-wide, Dolan told members of the City Council that five would lose their jobs as the department restructured its operations to keep the number of officers on patrol steady in 2012. The department is technically seeing a $788,000 increase in its proposed budget for next year, to $128 million, but Dolan said that falls $4.42 million short of what the department needs to pay for increases in health-care and other personnel costs.
Because the layoffs will be conducted by seniority, the Fifth Precinct, which covers Southwest Minneapolis, will lose its two specialists.
"This doesn't mean that any of those tasks can't get done," said Assistant Chief Janeé Hartau. "We're looking to automate some tasks."
Hartau said the department wants to focus the remaining specialists on door-knocking and organizing block clubs.
The City Council votes on the final city budget on Dec. 14.
UPDATED 1:28 p.m. 10/7/11: MPD spokesman Sgt. William Palmer tells Southwest Minneapolis Patch that if the City Council approves the department's budget, the Fifth Precinct will still lose its Crime Prevention Specialists, but they will be replaced by two of the remaining 13 Specialists from other precincts in Minneapolis. However, they will be having to learn the details of a new set of neighborhoods.