By Bill Sumrall
In presenting the 2009 crime status to the Alexandria City Council, T.W. Thompson, public safety commissioner and interim chief of police wanted the Council to know that the Alexandria Police Department and its officers work hard every day.
“Last year, we handled over 48,000 dispatched calls,” Thompson said, which breaks down to 573 calls per officer in the uniformed division of the police department.
“It costs a lot of money combating crime,” Thompson added, citing last week’s capture of two suspects arrested and charged with armed robberies on Masonic and Jackson Street Extension areas, which he said cost $19,000 in overtime.
“You all need to be aware (of that) too because we have to fund APD properly,” Thompson said.
Thompson told the Council that the community policing section of the Alexandria Police Department has 12 officers, which includes a commander, and has a combined 131 years of experience.
“The Alexandria Police Department is one of the finest police departments in this state,” Thompson said.
“The officers, the men and women, of that department work very diligently to fight crime here in the city,” Thompson said.
Thompson noted that the International Association of Chiefs of Police report says that the community police officers need “to broaden their views, broaden their horizons.”
The police will partner with Lisa Harris, director of community services, in spreading Kids Night Out, established by former Police Chief Daren Coutee, into several neighborhood sites, Thompson said.
“We’re out and about — the criminals that reside in the city of Alexandria should beware, they should take their business somewhere else because we’re going to be out there getting them, I can tell you that,” Thompson said.
Other statistics in the report presented to the Council cited 12,159 traffic stops last year, 4,934 field interviews and 6,784 citizen contacts, with 2,771 misdemeanor arrests and 961 felony arrests.
The 2009 report cited 618 vehicle burglaries, 738 residential burglaries and 285 commercial burglaries; six homicides; 17 rapes; 2,677 assaults (which includes all assaults, of which 2,290 of that total were simple assaults); 176 robberies; and 122 auto thefts. To date, only one homicide has been reported for 2010.
“APD’s out there, and we hope that the criminals understand that and either stop committing the crime or go somewhere else,” Thompson said.
Both Goins and District 1 Councilman Ed Larvadain III commended Thompson and the community policing commander, Lt. Greg Powell.
“We have to keep our streets safe. If we’re going to attract business and make things happen, we have to keep our citizens safe,” Larvadain said.
Council President Roosevelt Johnson added that one of the things people appreciate is the citizens’ contact, where officers give information and provide resources of the police department to work hand-in-hand to make the difference.
In a separate report, Joe Page, deputy chief of policy and planning and chief diversity officer, gave an update report to the Council about the city’s Diversity in Action initiative.
Page reported that last year the city achieved its goal of 15 percent minority-owned businesses but only achieved 3.2 percent of its 7 percent goal of women owned businesses.
“We need to continue our efforts with outreach to identify additional women owned-businesses that can do business with the city,” the report states.
“The Small Emerging Business Development program granted a total of $45,000 to the City of Alexandria this funding cycle to help small businesses with technical assistance. We have eight clients in the system now and we anticipate that we will provide help for seven additional clients,” the report states.
Page also demonstrated the new Diversity in Action button on the City of Alexandria’s Web site which leads to more information about the initiative.
Larvadain requested a list naming the 15 percent minority-owned businesses and dollar amounts they received, which Page said he thought had already been provided but would double-check to ensure Larvadain received a copy.
In other business, Larvadain said he realizes money is tight but requested the administration look at adding a youth jobs summer program as part of the summer programs at all community centers.
The Council heard a report from John Marzullo discussing the rail system at the Alexandria Port, which is expected to receive $500,000 in federal funding to improve rail spur access.
Marzullo reported that in the last five years, 42 percent of traffic on the Red River was done through the Port of Alexandria.
Finance Director David Crutchfield reported that the shortage of three meter readers and difficult weather conditions resulted in meters not read in a timely manner recently. “We did get behind,” Crutchfield said, but are caught up now.
Customers can arrange additional time to pay higher bills through the utility customer service department, Crutchfield said.
Larvadain said he’s received many complaints from his constituents about late fees when they told him their bills had been paid on time and asked about bringing the utility billing back in-house.
However, Crutchfield said billing service was outsourced to New Orleans because of the $200,000 expense to replace an in-house utility bill mail-processing machine and an employee to run it.
District 5 Councilman Chuck Fowler recalled that “it was a nightmare” when the in-house machine broke down and the city couldn’t get the utility bills out on time.
In another matter, Alexandria’s City Council approved park improvements and heard reports on community policing and a Diversity in Action initiative.
The city also joined a state grant agreement with the Central Louisiana chapter of the American Red Cross, Family Counseling and The Shepherd Center of Central Louisiana for homeless prevention programs and supportive services.
Lisa Harris, chief of policy and planning and director of community services, outlined the park improvements in the proposed professional services agreement with Lose & Associates during the community development committee meeting.
This was for the design and administration of Phase I park improvements, which was approved in committee prior to its final adoption in the 5 p.m. regular Council session Feb. 9.
Two new parks are the Sandy Bayou Park in District 3, which is in Councilman Jonathan Goins’ district, and Martin Park, which is near the 911 Center, Harris said.
Both include walking trails, playgrounds, pavilions, picnic facilities, landscaping and general park site features such as benches, trash receptacles and other site furnishings, according to a park improvements project approach cited by Harris.
Also, Frank O. Hunter Park’s redevelopment includes a youth football complex with a game field and two practice fields, a new parking lot, a football press box with concessions and restrooms, picnic facilities, landscaping and general park site features such as benches, trash receptacles and other site furnishings.