Public Safety Levy Discussion

University Place Residents' Top Priority: More PolicePublic Safety Forum 1

In response to community demands, the University Place City Council is considering a Public Safety Levy for the November 2022 ballot. If referred to and approved by voters, this measure would provide funding to allow the University Place Police Department to increase staffing, putting the Police Department on par with similarly sized Washington cities. This increased capacity would allow the Department to:

  • Hire more officers to protect schools, neighborhoods, businesses, and parks. 
  • Reduce the time it takes an officer to reach someone in crisis when they call for help.
  • Address the increase in property crime that is impacting the City’s businesses and residents.

These goals reflect a recent community survey, which found public safety to be the top local priority. The survey showed a specific need to invest in additional personnel to address the rise in property crimes and reduce response times.

A Proposal to Invest in Public Safety Priorities

If referred to and approved by voters, this levy would result in additional law enforcement staffing, reduce response times, enhance traffic enforcement, and address neighborhood concerns. The levy would cost homeowners $2.67 per month for every $100,000 in a home’s assessed value. For the average U.P. home of $525,000, this would be approximately $14 a month (or $168 a year).

The Department is considering the following staffing additions: 

  1. One supervisor in the Investigations Division to provide additional supervision within the department.  Ideally, this would be an experienced investigator who can handle higher level cases in-house, instead of relying on Pierce County Sheriff Department for follow-up.
  2. Two patrol officers assigned to the swing shift (i.e., from 2 p.m. to midnight). This would augment the limited staffing during the time of day with the busiest call volume.
  3. Two patrol officers dedicated to traffic enforcement during the daytime. This would provide sustained attention to traffic and pedestrian safety issues, improve police visibility during business hours, and improve response times.
  4. One investigator to enhance the Police Department’s ability to conduct follow-up investigations.
  5. One Community Outreach Officer, a city employee who will work within the police department to enhance crime prevention efforts by working with residents and businesses, conducting in-the-field contact with nuisance level incidents, and providing additional patrols of parks and City property as needed or available.

Police Department Staffing Lags Community Growth

Even when fully staffed, the University Place Police Department currently has the fewest officers per 1,000 residents in the state. For similarly sized jurisdictions in Washington, with populations of 20,000‒60,000 (52 cities and counties), the average staffing is 1.19 officers per 1,000 residents. University Place has a staffing ratio of 0.45 officers per 1,000. 

This disparity is growing as our city grows. Between 2011-2020, University Place added three times the number of new residents compared to the previous decade. In that same time, the Police Department has added only two new positions. This growth has dramatically stretched law enforcement resources.

Addressing Response Times & Property Crime Requires More Police on Our Streets 

The police departments calls for service have increased dramatically over the past few years - by almost 30% since 2016. 

Calls for Service

Property crimes were identified as the highest area of concern in our recent survey. 

As shown in the chart below, the rise in property crimes has placed an additional burden on the University Place Police Department.

Property Crime Incidents Graph

Please note that the 2022 incidents are a projection based on actual incidents between January and April.

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