Officials: Safety force, crime both down in Oakwood

Reductions in the size of the city’s Public Safety Department staff and cuts in overtime hours haven’t led to an increase in crimes.

In a report to city council, Oakwood Public Safety Director Alex Bebris said the trend in serious crimes including burglary, larceny, auto theft and robberies “has been generally downward in Oakwood” since 2007.

Larcenies, for example, totaled 176 in the city of more than 9,200 in 2007, but stood at just 70 this year, as of Oct. 31.

Bebris said the department, which combines, police, fire and rescue functions, has been reduced from 25 to 22 and that “crew strength” on typical duty times has been cut from eight to seven.

It accounts for 40 percent of the city’s expenditures, city manager Norbert Klopsch said. The Public Works Department is next at 25 percent.

Bebris said a smaller force hasn’t led to more overtime, which has been true in many cities, or created gaps in police attention.

“Our overtime, as measured in labor hours, is down 35 percent since 2011,” he said. “Overtime represents 4 percent of our department budget.”

He said the force likely will surpass the 2,837 citations officers issued in 2012. The number to date is 2,787. “That has a positive impact on traffic enforcement.”

Two veteran members of the department, officers Tony Gressel and Susie Green recently have retired and will be replaced.

Bebris said the force’s response time hasn’t wavered. The first unit on the scene averaged 2.11 minutes in 2008. So far this year, it’s 1.9 minutes.

Klopsch said preliminary budget estimates indicate that the city will spend $200,000 less in 2014 than it will in 2013.

Next year’s budget will be presented to city council in December.