UPDATED 09/21/12 11:19 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicagoans could pay a significantly higher price to keep the city safer, if one alderman gets his way.
As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, Ald. George Cardenas (12th) says the city needs a surge in police hiring to help stop the violence that has plagued Chicago. To fund that surge, he says the city should impose a $5 month “safety and security” fee on homes and businesses that would generate the $70 million needed to hire 700 new police officers.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Berner reports
Cardenas wants the fee tacked onto your ComEd electric bill. He says the fee would be temporary, but well worth it.
“It’s a number that I think people can relate to — $5 – if you say it’s a cup of coffee, things like that that don’t add up to a lot – five bucks a month,” Cardenas said. “And it’s something that, I think they’re buying peace of mind, knowing that we’re going to put more bots on the ground.”
Rank-and-file officers have been saying they are lacking in manpower and calling for more hiring for some time, but such has not happened. Last year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and police Supt. Garry McCarthy disbanded a few specialized units to make way for more patrol officers, but did not launch a major hiring campaign.
Cardenas adds that while beat officers are important, the city can’t afford losing specialized officers.
Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President Mike Shields praised the idea, and said the police force is suffering from a critical manpower shortage that is getting worse.
“The attrition rate over the last 3 1/2 years has been about 4.5 to 1, so about 4.5 officers who retired for every one officer who is hired,” Shield said. “The crime rate is going up. The manpower is going down.”
But Shields said it is disappointing that the local government has not prioritized its funding to cover the hiring of more officers.
“I think it’s absurd, because we’re already paying the tax dollars, and that should go forward to pay for all the police officers,” said Joey Batson.
Maurice Jackson what is most important is that more the Police Department gets the support it needs.
“I can’t believe that I’m saying this, but at this point in life, I’m all for law enforcement, because I live on the South Side. My family actually owns (A.R.) Leak Funeral Home, and I know what’s going on in the city, so anything to help the cops at this point, I think we need to do, because they need as much help; they need our support,” he said.
Cardenas said he has not brought the idea up to ComEd – a subsidiary of the Exelon corporation – or any aldermen.
He said the next time the Finance and Public Safety committees meet, he will propose this idea. But no date has not been set yet.
Meanwhile, CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, the next city budget is still being written. People filed into Mayor Emanuel’s office Friday at City Hall.
There are likely to be more citywide job layoffs, as there were last year. But unlike last year, no increase is planned in the fee for the city sticker for your car or truck.
The bad news: They’re talking about a series of fee hikes on small businesses. The Office of Business Affairs issues licenses for everything from tire shops to tattoo parlors and everything in between. Of course, those businesses aren’t going to eat those increases – meaning, customers will ultimately pay.