Crime up after Junction lays off police officers

October 14, 2003|LIZ MAPLES

JUNCTION CITY - A man arrested for drinking while driving an all-terrain vehicle here was surprised when Police Chief Jimmy Gipson arrested him. Gipson said the man told him he didn't think there was an officer on duty in Junction City.

The word that the police force has been cut in half is on the streets, and Gipson told the City Council Monday that it has spurred a crime wave. A known drug dealer has been in the area, there were four burglaries and two driving under the influence arrests, according to Gipson.

Residents asked Mayor G.G. Harmon to reinstate the two officers he laid off. Harmon said he will make a decision this afternoon, but council members did not paint an optimistic picture.

The city can't pay the officers. Gipson suggested the council borrow the money until the city can apply for a grant.


"We already owe $100,000 with no way to pay it back," said Councilwoman Roberta Zeller. "I'm not going to vote to borrow more money; we can't do it."

The city had to borrow money this spring to pay bills.

"We can find 1,000 reasons we need these officers, but what about solutions?" Councilman Jim Douglas said. "If we borrow the money, how are we going to pay it back?"

Gipson has found a $4,000 grant and planned to apply for another federal grant. In the meantime, he said that he would voluntarily be laid off, so that the officers could keep their jobs.

The two officers' salaries, without benefits, until the end of October would cost $3,800. Councilwoman Connie Vernon said the $4,000 grant wouldn't be enough and that the other grant was just a possibility.

"We can't take maybe to the bank," Douglas said.

As discussion entered into its second hour, Gipson announced that he and all of the other police officers had begun to look for other jobs.

Councilman Dewayne Taylor said that if the city loses officers it would cost more in the long run because the cost of training one is $15,000.

The shortage will only get worse in the next two months as officers go to training and take vacation, Gipson said.

Boyle County Sheriff's Department and Kentucky State Police will answer calls in the city limits, but will not patrol the streets.

Residents asked if they could raise the money to keep the officers.

"Look, $4,000 barely gets them through one month. There is no benefit out there" to raise what the city would need, Vernon said. "Then if we pay them for one month, what are we going to do next month?"

Junction City, as a fifth class city, is not required to provide police protection, but Gipson said that it has more crime and drug problems than most cities its size.

"Taking officers off the street is the right answer for the budget, but the wrong answer for the people," Gipson said.

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