As Warner Robins police continue to investigate the city's fourth homicide of 2017, WMAZ checked in with city leaders to hear what they're doing to help police fight the city's rising crime numbers.
In 2016, Warner Robins' violent crime increased for the second year in a row and this year's homicides have already surpassed 2015.
Police have said part of the problem has been the department's inability to grow with the city's population.
“I was thinking around that time that nothing has happened, I mean everything seems to have quieted down and then bam it happens again,” Mayor Randy Toms said in his office on Wednesday.
Mayor Toms says the city is trying to come up with solutions to help the police department.
A recent pay study from Valdosta State University said the city's pay scale was making it difficult to retain police officers.
“When you go from starting pay up the ladder to the top, those levels in there are compressed so that's where you get some of the issues that are prevalent in the law enforcement field where you have a field training officer who is training a brand new police officer and making 20 cents more an hour,” Toms said.
Toms’ budget proposal will recommend against giving city employees a 2-percent cost of living adjustment this year. He hopes to use that money to help fix the pay scale, benefiting more-experienced employees.
Councilman Chuck Shaheen says he is also working to help hire and retain new police officers.
“On Friday, I have requested a meeting with two other council people and a couple community leaders about retaining and recruiting military officers for our police department,” Shaheen said.
That meeting is scheduled for 2:00p.m. on Friday afternoon at City Hall.
Shaheen says he wants to create more incentives to recruit military security personnel coming out of Robins Air Force Base to the Warner Robins Police Department and get them to stay.
The Councilman also said new technology, like drones, could help police cover more ground. He also said he would support responsibly spending money to create new positions, but he wants the department to fill the vacancies it has, and keep them filled, first.
Right now, Warner Robins Police are budgeted for 115 sworn officer positions and 2 of those positions are open.
Toms said in his office Wednesday that he hopes the city’s recent focus on recreation improvements will help fight crime long term so kids have activities to keep them from crime.
The Mayor also said he has asked Police Chief Brett Evans to look at how much it would cost the city to add 5 new officer positions. But, that estimate will not make it into this year’s budget proposal. Toms said he wants the city to focus on fixing the retention issue, before worrying about recruiting new employees.
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