Greenwood officials looking for money to hire more police officers

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GREENWOOD, Ind (September 8, 2015) - Greenwood city officials are looking for ways to bolster the ranks of the Greenwood Police Department, which they say is badly understaffed.

Greenwood Police officials say their department currently has 58 sworn officers for a city population around 55,000.  Assistant Chief Matt Fillenwarth says the department would need to double in size in order stay in line with guidelines set forth by the U.S. Justice Department.  He says the lean staffing is taking a toll on officers’ efforts to proactively fight crime.

“They don’t have time to go out there and patrol a neighborhood, set up speeding enforcement, just going out looking for crime,” Fillenwarth said.  “Because so many calls for service come in, they just end up going from call to call to call for their 12-hour shift.”

The issue of understaffing is not new to Greenwood or other police departments around the state.  But Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers says the city’s growing population is putting increasing pressure on police.  The city has made cuts to the upcoming budget to allow for three new officers to be hired.  But Myers says that’s only scratching the surface of what is needed.

To generate new revenue for the city, Myers plans to ask state lawmakers to approve a one percent Food and Beverage Tax for the city of Greenwood.  Money raised from the tax would only go to the city’s public safety budget.

But the Mayor’s Food and Beverage Tax proposal has already proven to be an uphill battle.  The plan has failed at the statehouse in the last two sessions.

“Which I find I find rather disheartening,” Myers said.  “Because the state legislators, I’ve got plenty of them quoted saying we need to do more to help public safety.  Yet when I come with a food and beverage tax that’s going to go towards public safety, it gets shot down.”

Myers will also ask for a statewide food and beverage tax to fund public safety, which has also failed the last two sessions.  A Johnson County Local Option Income Tax for public safety is also being discussed.

But Myers believes the food and beverage tax makes the most sense.  Large attractions like the Greenwood Park Mall bring in hundreds of thousands of visitors from outside Greenwood each year.

“We have the second largest mall in the state of Indiana in Greenwood Park Mall,” Fillenwarth said.  “On a slow day they average about 30,000 visitors.  After Black Friday and on it’s about 100,000 plus.”

Police records show more than half the people arrested by Greenwood Police in 2014 were from outside the city of Greenwood.

Myers does not believe the tax would hamper business at the mall or other restaurants.

“If you go across the street into Marion County, they already have the two-percent food and beverage tax.  So it would be no different,” he said.

If the food and beverage tax proposal fails again, Myers says he may ask the legislature to change current state law regarding the existing food and beverage tax which was enacted as part of the Lucas Oil Stadium construction.  He would like to see the law changed to allow cities to collect food and beverage taxes on money spent within city limits.