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Councilman's Effort to Hire More Police Officers Thwarted

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LAWTON, Okla_Crime is on the rise in Lawton and a city councilman is determined to stop it.

Tuesday night Keith Jackson proposed $1.50 increase on the base water bill to fund the hiring and purchase of 12 new police officers and 12 new patrol cars.

After a hot debate from the council and a handful of audience members the item to add the fee to hire officers was voted down 2 to 5, and the item to purchase the patrol cars was struck from the agenda.

One thing everyone could agree on is Lawton does have a definite crime problem, and that more officers need to be added.

The question is, how? Those who opposed the hike argued that too often the water bill is where the city makes up for lack of funds, and they believe the money can and should be found elsewhere.

Councilman Moses was among those for the rate hike, "I'm all for putting it wherever you have to put it to get the money right now and this process started."

And others like Councilwoman Bellino-Hall who were staunchly against it, "I cannot vote to put this on the water bill."

But ultimately the decision to add the hike to the water bill was turned down.

Councilman Keith Jackson is worried because, to him, everyone is caught up on the wrong issue.

"The issue is the high crime rate in Lawton. It's, in my opinion, it's out of control. The police department is doing the very best they can with the tools they have. They just don't have enough people, " said Jackson.

He said understands that tax payers may not want to pay a couple of extra dollars a month to foot the bill, but the way he sees it, it's the quickest solution to a serious problem.

"I believe crime is such an issue here in town. I want to get the additional police officers on the street, " Jackson said.

Councilman Jay Burk suggested imposing a public safety fund that is drawn from a quarter of every sales tax dollar, but that wouldn't go into effect until 2014. Jackson said the water bill hike would be almost immediate.

"I don't want it to take that long. I want to get the officers on board now, as soon as possible, " said Jackson.

The argument was the added $1.50 to the bill would be too much for some citizens to afford. Other council members think in a time of drought and trying to balance a deficient budget it's just not right to start asking more of tax payers.

But to Jackson the issue is serious enough to be handled immediately.

"I want to live within our means, but not with this crime issue, " Jackson said.

The Police Chief's was contacted for comment, but he could not speak to the matter until after the meeting.

Currently there are 163 police officers on the payroll. 107 of those are patrol officers, and according to a meeting between Jackson and the Chief all operating vehicles that the Police Department has are in use. When asked both the Chief's office and Councilman Jackson did not know exactly how many vehicles that is.

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