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Delray Beach looks to beef up public safety

Posted at 7:51 PM, Aug 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-01 04:09:59-04

Delray Beach needs more police officers to keep up with the city's growing popularity.

"We’ve proven the fact that Delray is continuing to grow," Delray Beach Police Chief Jeff Goldman said. "And to provide what I believe this community deserves, an A+ service, we need the officers that are out there, doing extra patrols, stopping the bad guys and bad girls, interacting with the community in a positive way. All of that takes bodies, officers."

However, measuring the population of the Delray Beach community is difficult to do.

"The basic staffing model that a lot of cities use to try to staff their police departments, to me, you’ve got to throw out because of all the other things that are going on in Delray Beach," Goldman said.

“While we are a very seasonal town, we also are dealing with a very large transient, untrackable, really a ghost population relative to the recovery industry," Mayor Cary Glickstein said.

Glickstein said the city can't ask treatment or recovery centers to provide information on how many people are there.

"We don’t really know who is in our town unlike traditional metrics that we’ve used to track population and tourists," he said. "It doesn’t apply here."

However, Goldman said he knows his department needs more officers based on several factors.

"To provide that service to our service population, on any given day is probably around 100,000 people," he said. "All the people walking around down here. Businesses constantly opening. The beach."

The department had 51,016 calls for service in 2015 and 53,283 in 2016.

So far this year, Chief Goldman said there have been 31,674 calls for service, or 4,524 a month. If that pace of calls stays steady, the department could have 54,294 calls by the end of 2017.

“We’re getting a lot more calls of quality of life issues, recovery community issues, homeless," he said.

Goldman also said response times since 2014 have increased slightly. He said they're going up by a matter of seconds, not minutes, so the community isn't at risk, but he'd like that trend to go the other way.

"Seconds means a lot. We really want to look at that," Goldman said.

The sector of the population that is difficult to track, those in treatment for opioid addiction, also puts a strain on police resources.

"When it’s not successful, a lot of the people that were in treatment and are no longer in treatment either become victims of crime or suspects in crime and you add to that the dramatic increase in opioid-related overdoses, which both our police and fire rescue respond to," Glickstein said.

Goldman said the department is responding to 50 overdose calls a month.

"Those calls take between 30 minutes to sometimes two hours," Goldman said.

While he said the department isn't understaffed, he feels adding more police officers would keep the police department's growth in line with that of the city.

"So we don’t kick the can down the road and three years from now we’re like, 'Wow, our community doesn’t feel safe,'" he said.

The department wants to add five police officers this upcoming fiscal year and another five officers the fiscal year after that.

"I don’t expect any pushback," Glickstein said. "I think the commission has been in lockstep for a couple of years in terms of understanding the need to enhance our public safety department."

He also said the city hopes to add eight staff members to the fire department the next two fiscal years.