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Normally, we would advocate taking a very skeptical look at any
tax proposed by our local governments. But, in the case of the
under-staffed Hollister Police Department and rising gang violence,
it is time for the city of Hollister to explore putting a public
safety tax on the ballot.
Normally, we would advocate taking a very skeptical look at any tax proposed by our local governments. But, in the case of the under-staffed Hollister Police Department and rising gang violence, it is time for the city of Hollister to explore putting a public safety tax on the ballot.

Take a look at the facts: The HPD has 26 able bodied sworn officers – including Police Chief Jeff Miller and two captains – patrolling our streets. Over all, the department has 32 budgeted police positions for a city of 35,500. But a constant flux of injuries, vacancies and disabilities keep police staffing levels at nearly half the national average of 1.5 officers per 1,000 people. And that means less targeted work on gang violence and other problems.

“We’re so short staffed the resources we put toward the gang problem have to be diverted to handling some of the other crimes, so in a way they’re (victims) affected by the gang problem too, even if they’re not affected by gang crime directly,” Miller told the Free Lance recently. “The opportunity to be proactive and have a larger, more visible presence to deter the crime – we’re not able to do that right now.”

Police often have only two or three officers on patrol in the entire city. At one point, the HPD detective bureau had 1,000 back-logged cases to solve. As awareness spreads about how short-staffed the department is, Hollister has become a popular area for gang members looking to sell their illegal wares and carry out crimes, police say.

Following the fourth gang-related shooting in just over a month – a drive-by last week that peppered a house with 15 bullets while children cowered in fear in their home and sent a man to the hospital – there has been an increasing public outcry over the violence in Hollister. People are scared and not a little shocked that it is happening in our sleepy little town.

This is a situation that must not continue. Police need the resources to combat gang violence. And, our local leaders need to explore a targeted public safety tax to put more feet on the beat. Take a look at the need, explore what type of tax would work best – a sales tax, utility tax or property tax – and gauge the public’s willingness to support it. The one caveat we have is that any tax must have a clearly-defined sunset clause so it is not indefinite.

In fact, we’d like to see Chief Miller and Sheriff Curtis Hill work together to create a joint plan and a budget to see if this is a tax that should be countywide. If it’s feasible, build a case, put it on the ballot.

It’s time to let the voters decide whether they want to pony up for safety.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.

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