Although crime rates have been stable in recent years, Quincy Police Chief Paul Keenan would still like to see increased staffing in upcoming budgets to maintain the safety of the city.
In a presentation Tuesday to the Public Safety Committee during Public Safety Week, Keenan said that the department is down nine patrol officers, a captain, and a lieutenant from when he took over as chief in 2008.
Depending on budget deliberations, the problem with staffing numbers may partially be resolved this year.
“The mayor has made a commitment to bring five more [patrol officers to take the number] from 140 to 145,” Keenan said. “He’s a public safety mayor… but it’s a matter of if he can find room in the budget to increase the police budget and size of the department.”
The hope is to increase staffing levels to increase policing of Quincy Center, deal with drug activity around the city, and help handle the homeless population.
Quincy Center has become a focus mainly because of the planned urban development that the $1.6 billion redevelopment will bring. Increased police activity will hopefully increase the quality of life in the area by diminishing street crimes, Keenan said.
Additionally, the city is dealing with increased drug activity in the region.
Already the department has experienced an uptick in drug arrests, partially due to more drug use, as well as the fact that Quincy has expanded its drug unit.
“[Cracking down on] drugs is always a priority,” Keenan said. “Society in general has seen an upsurge in drug use. That’s always a priority because that leads to incidental crimes - shoplifting, larcenies - people get desperate. That remains a focus… We’re putting pressure on, almost doubled the drug unit, purchased drug detection dogs, and we’ve made a real effort.”
An rise in drug use has also meant a surge in the number of firearms on the streets, and subsequently a surge in the number of firearms seized.
In 2008, 11 firearms were taken, in 2009, 46 firearms apprehended. That number jumped to 79 in 2010, and 108 in 2011.
“We are seizing some firearms, and taking a lot of them off the streets. In one way it’s a good sign because we’re taking guns off the streets, in another way it's not, because there appears to be more guns on the street,” Keenan said.
The focus on drug apprehension accompanies a similar focus in City Hall, with a community task force and substance-abuse agencies trying to put people afflicted with drug problems into recovery programs.
The homeless population in the city is also something that takes significant resources to handle, Keenan said.
“I wouldn’t classify it as a problem, but it demands a lot of our resources,” Keenan said. “It’s a difficult situation because it’s a societal issue, but we have to deal with the fallout from having a homeless shelter in the city, having a soup kitchen in Quincy Square, it causes us to increase our responses in those areas.”
Many people who wind up in homeless shelters are there because of a mental illness or addictive behavior, which adds to calls for emergency response, Keenan said.
“But we work well with Father Bill's and do the best we can to keep their residents and people safe and address the quality-of-life issues that having a homeless shelter creates,” Keenan said.
Calls for service have fluctuated over the years, going from 187 in 2007, to 208 in 2008, to 271 in 2009, 199 in 2010, 244 in 2011, and 56 so far this year.
Many arrests occurred at Father Bills from residents who were not from Quincy
Despite the problems the city is facing, Keenan said overall Quincy is a safe city.
“I’d just [keep] the staffing level, keep those up and crime levels down, ensure [Quincy] remains a safe community. I think it is and I’d like to see it remain so, but we need to do due diligence to keep it that way,” Keenan said.