Desert Hot Springs residents, like Robert Thompson, support police efforts like Operational Falling Sun and hope police will do more to cut down on crime.
“I like the fact that they had that parole sweep. And I did see a difference downtown. Not a lot of guys walking up and down the streets,” says Thompson.
Measure A will addfour new police officers to the Desert Hot Springs Police Department. Residents will renew a user-utility tax approved in 2000 at a two percent increase. The tax and a parcel tax account for a third of this year’s public safety budget.
If the ballot measure passes, new officers could arrive in about four to five months. The money will also be used to fund a program for the fire department.
The city’s crime rate has dropped by nearly a quarter since 2006, even though the police department is understaffed. The department needsnine more officers. They’ve relied heavily on other departments, especially for large raids like Falling Sun.
“We need to be able to stand on our two feet to be able to address these issues. We need a minimal start to accomplish that. Measure A helps us get there,” says Desert Hot Springs Police Chief Patrick Williams.
This week, the state denied a DHS Police request for extra funds to addtwo new gang officers. The department says they’ve got other plans to add the officers and MeasureA is one of them.
“Measure A allows us to hirefour new officers immediately. It’s local funds that goes to the city of Desert Hot Springs. We don’t have to rely on anybody outside this community. We don’t have to rely on the state,” says Chief Williams.
Not everyone is pleased with the potential tax hike. Frank Montague says California taxpayers are already paying too much and any more taxes could be disastrous.
“And if it’s people like me, who are retired and are on a limited income, everytime they tack on 10 bucks more a month and they say, ‘Well, it’s only $10 a month.’ That ‘only’ part of it never ends,” says Montague.
The tax increase would last until 2019. So ultimately, it’s voters who can decide if and when it ends.