The Spokane Police Department will open two new precincts by the end of the year, police Chief Frank Straub said Monday.
The announcement brings the department closer to a community policing model that’s been proposed for years but never implemented because city leaders said it required additional staff.
Straub said Mayor David Condon’s proposed 2014 budget, which calls for hiring about 30 more officers, would bring the department’s roster to 300, enough to move ahead on the proposal.
Former Chief Anne Kirkpatrick unveiled a similar model in 2007. Budget cuts scuttled the effort.
Straub said his plan builds on Kirkpatrick’s and will be rolled out slowly as the department adds new officers.
The city opened a downtown precinct this summer as complaints increased among downtown business leaders about crime in the city’s core.
Statistics indicate that crime downtown is about even with last year, and violent crime is falling downtown and citywide.
But the city continues to struggle with property crime. It’s up 5.3 percent this year citywide compared to the same period last year, according to department statistics. That is on top of a 23 percent increase in 2012 from 2011, according to FBI statistics.
Straub said the department will open one precinct in north Spokane and another on the South Hill. They will be housed in existing Community Oriented Policing offices. He said final decisions about which COPS Shops would be selected haven’t been made.
Each precinct will have a detective and will be led by a captain who will be a “mini police chief” for a geographical area, Straub said. The north precinct will begin operations with four community resource officers. The south precinct will start with two.
Straub said citizens wanting to talk directly to an officer will be able to go to the precincts. If officers are out at a scene, police volunteers will be available, he said.
“We are putting investigative resources in the neighborhoods,” Straub said.
Once the precinct model is fully implemented, Straub said, the city will decide if it should vacate the Public Safety Building, the law enforcement headquarters behind the Spokane County Courthouse shared by the department and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.
Straub wants the department to open permanent locations for precincts by 2015. He plans to split the north precinct into northeast and northwest offices. He said the size of precincts and whether property would be bought or leased has not been decided.
“We can’t invest in precincts until we can fill the precincts with officers,” Straub said.