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Crime up, Nashua considers hiring more police

NASHUA — City aldermen questioned the police chief Monday about rising crime rates, asking whether more officers are needed.

&#';We are living in a changing city,&#'; Alderman-at-Large David Deane said.

He pointed to crime data from the first quarters of 2011 and 2010. From one year to the next, burglaries jumped 80 percent, robberies were up 60 percent and property crimes increased 48 percent.

Deane called the numbers alarming, asking what could be done to help the police department reduce crime.

&#';My short answer would be additional manpower,&#'; Chief John Seusing told the aldermanic Budget Review Committee.

Currently, the department is authorized to hire 177 officers, but Seusing explained that at most times, some of those officers are not patrolling the streets because they are in training.

Although the chief did not make a recommendation to increase the size of the force, Seusing said the ideal number of authorized police would be 185 rather than 177.

It would cost more than $616,000 to hire eight additional police officers, according to preliminary estimates.

Aldermen also asked how the force compares to the Manchester Police Department and its authorized strength. City officials were told that Manchester has about 227 sworn officers, according to Police Commissioner Thomas Pappas.

Manchester has more than 100,000 residents; Nashua's population is nearly 86,000.

The Nashua Police Department's proposed budget for fiscal year 2013 is nearly $24.5 million, or slightly less than a 2 percent increase from the existing budget. Aside from the school district, it is the city's largest department budget.

The budget proposal comes just weeks after the Board of Aldermen approved a supplemental appropriation to pay for a shortfall in this year's police budget that temporarily forced two school resource officers to be pulled out of their duties and into the Patrol Bureau.

Seusing said those positions have been reinstated, and will resume in the fall.

Although he is not proposing any additional police officers, Seusing is recommending that three communication technicians and three dispatchers be hired.

This would allow six police officers now filling those roles to obtain positions on the Patrol Bureau, according to Seusing. It would also eliminate about $200,000 in projected overtime costs, he added.

Alderman-at-Large James Donchess agreed with his fellow board member, saying crime rates are a concern.

Donchess said he would like to see more presence — either bike patrols or foot patrols — in the downtown area, specifically in the tree street neighborhoods. He questioned whether authorizing eight additional officers would lead to more of a downtown presence and decrease crime there.

&#';I would say it absolutely would,&#'; Seusing said.

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