SAN BERNARDINO — In a city where crime has been rampant, budget cuts may force San Bernardino police Chief Keith Kilmer’s hand by next July.
In a community that has been home to some high profile crimes, including gang-related murders, special department units targeting gang enforcement, auto theft, crime impact, narcotics and community affairs could be absorbed into patrol, according to Kilmer.
In August, the city council voted to cut $11 million over the next two fiscal years. That amounts to eight percent from each city department. Kilmer said those losses would be felt mostly in personnel.
So far, 25 officer vacancies have been eliminated. If no additional revenue comes into the city treasury by next summer, Kilmer said 27 current officers will be laid off. Such layoffs would shrink the department below 300 sworn peace officers for the first time since the mid-1990s.
According to crime statistics released by the city, violent crime in San Bernardino dropped 11 percent between 2007-09. There have been fewer murders, rapes, robberies and assaults through July of this year, the report said.
“My fear is that these things will start to creep back into the city,” said Kilmer. “If we’re not tending to the garden, man, that garden’s going to really start to grow.”
Surrounding communities, including Redlands, Banning and Colton, have undergone massive layoffs to both sworn and non-sworn personnel. San Bernardino, located approximately halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs, has a population well over 200,000.