Police: Cuts will increase accidents

By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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With the Rocklin Police Department budget under siege by the recession, Chief Mark Siemens now wonders what affect it will have on public safety. “We’re reducing our capacity as an organization,” Siemens said. In the majority decision last month, Mayor Scott Yuill, Councilmen George Magnuson and Peter Hill approved more than $620,000 in cuts to police services for the new fiscal budget, which would layoff a sworn police officer, the department’s only patrol K-9 and would freeze open positions including a traffic sergeant, administration analyst, an office assistant and a dispatcher. “It is a major hit,” Siemens said. “On the administrative side, of the four people that ran the department, now there are only two of us left.” Rocklin police are victims of their own success. Crime has been cut by more than 21 percent over the last year and red-light violations have gone done about 63 percent, Siemens reports. Special traffic enforcement operations have reduced traffic collisions by 20 percent over the last three years. Now he said, that’s going to change as one less traffic officer would eliminate about 1,000 traffic tickets written yearly. “The more enforcement you have, the fewer accidents you will have,” Siemens said. “Our accident rate will go up. It is not a ‘might,’ it will go up.” Siemens has been forced to freeze 12 positions as officers and support staff have left to find other agencies to work for. “I could sure use back about half of those folks,” he said. “If we didn’t have our volunteers, we would be in dire straits.” Even so, Siemens said volunteers are not equipped to handle some sensitive police functions. He said he’s been forced to reorganize and allow a community service officer and a crime lab analyst to spend half of their time as a dispatcher to help out. “Now we’re not going to process as much evidence as we did,” he said. Siemens said fingerprint work on minor crimes may not be done as well as analysis of crime statistics, which in some cases, leads to special crime fighting operations. “If you can recognize a pattern you can forecast where these crimes are going to happen,” Siemens said. One case in point, two weeks ago Rocklin Police identified a pattern of car burglaries at a Sierra College parking lot and set up a sting to stop the alleged thief. Now the officially retired chief will work on a contract basis to save the city money while he scrambles to keep Rocklin citizens safe. “I am hourly, but we’re getting the job done. Whatever it takes,” he said. Siemens said he hopes previous program cuts and less overtime will allow him to save a Rocklin officer from the budget axe. “It is hard to find good police officers,” Siemens said. “When you find them, you like to hold on to them.” To share your opinion about cuts to the Rocklin Police Department, Rocklin City Council’s next meeting is at 6 p.m. Feb. 23 at the second floor of the Administration Building, 3970 Rocklin Road.