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$18.5 million police budget reviewed

Evanston taxpayers spend $18.5 million a year on police protection. And in return, Police Chief Frank Kaminski says, they’re now seeing “the lowest crime rate ever recorded in the city.”

During the City Council’s review of the Police Department budget Monday, Chief Kaminski didn’t directly ask for more more staffing.

But when Alderman Elizabeth Tisdahl, 7th Ward, asked what it would take to set up a tactical unit to deal with disturbances in the area of Custer Avenue and Brummel Street or other trouble spots, the chief said it would require about eight officers and two supervisors — or about a million dollars a year including equipment.

Evanston now has 162 sworn officers and 60 civilian staff members. That gives the city substantially more police presence than nearby communities of roughly similar size.

Arlington Heights, for example, with just a few hundred fewer residents than the 75,236 in Evanston, has 113 sworn officers, according to a recent survey. Skokie, with nearly 65,000 residents, has 111 officers.

By contrast, Chicago fields over twice as many police offers per capita as Evanston.

“We’re a mid-range to large police agency,” Chief Kaminski says, “We run our own lockup, our own communications service, and have every major responsibility than any big-city police department does.”

He said the department responds to 60,000 calls for service each year, and he noted that Evanston is one of only 600 accredited police agencies among over 22,000 departments nationwide.

The chief said the department has 10 patrol officers on duty during the day and 11 each for the evening and overnight shift, along with two supervisors on each shift.

He said the evening shift tends to be the busiest, and that several additiona officers from specialty units, ranging from the detective bureau to the youth division, are generally available to help out during those hours as needed.

Lacking a dedicated tactical unit, the department has added two extra patrol units on the evening shift during the summer months by bringing officers in for overtime shifts.

“That means we have different officers on that patrol every day, so you lose some continuity,” the chief said, “but it’s still better than nothing.”

Chief Kaminski said the department new K-9 unit will start operation on Aug. 14, once the office and dog return from training. He noted that donations provided to start up the K-9 program won’t cover it’s full cost in the future and noted that the grant funding for the department’s youth outreach initiative will run out at the end of the fiscal year.

In addition to the $18.1 million police operating budget, the city also spends $4.1 million a year to fund police pensions.

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