Anita Lopez speaks during an election rally at Aurora Gonzalez Community Center as she announces she is running for mayor, Tuesday, April 16, 2013.
Anita Lopez said today she will hire more police if she becomes Toledo mayor but she couldn't say how many are currently on the force, how much it costs to employ a random number of officers, or how she would pay for the additional officers.
Ms. Lopez, the Lucas County auditor who is among seven people on the September ballot for the mayor's race, released her “Safe and Strong Neighborhoods” plan during a news conference outside the Toledo Police Museum in West Toledo.
Ms. Lopez said the police department is understaffed and neighborhoods are suffering as a result.
“As mayor we will be creating a new approach to how we work on safety and most importantly the strength of our neighborhoods," she said.
Ms. Lopez said she will also create “Toledo Neighborhood Teams,” which would be made by taking staffers out of One Government Center and putting them “in the community.”
She was pressed by reporters several times for specifics, but could not offer any other than to say it would be done without increasing the budget.
“This will effectively create directors without increasing payroll and without adding paid positions. What we will do is put existing positions into action in the neighborhoods," she said.
Ms. Lopez promised specifics closer to the September primary.
“The number may be even higher than we currently have as necessary for full staff which needs as a minimum to be about the 700 number, closer to the 800 or 900, I am thinking, but again, that is not going to take place unless you have a mayor who knows how to cut budgets when necessary,” she said of the police force.
The other major candidates in the race balked at Ms. Lopez's plan because it lacked specifics.
Mayor Mike Bell and Councilman D. Michael Collins each knew the number of police officers: 586, which includes 454 patrolmen and 132 command officers. Councilman Joe McNamara was able to pinpoint the force at “about 580, which includes more than 400 patrolmen."
Ms. Lopez, Mr. McNamara, and Mr. Collins all have criticized the mayor for not hiring more police officers to keep up with retirements. Mayor Bell has repeatedly corrected his opponents regarding crime, pointing out that crime has been reduced under his watch and that he hired more police officers and firefighters than the previous two administrations combined.
“The mayor made a commitment about a year ago to be at 600 and we just had a class graduate,” said Deputy Mayor Shirley Green. “Sixty-five more will be hired this year, which will put us over .”
Among the mayor's assertions is that crime fell 24 percent during the first three months of 2013 versus the same period last year.
According to FBI numbers, Toledo’s total crime was down 9.49 percent in 2012 over 2011. On the other hand, total crime was down 18.34 percent according to the Toledo police department's annual report, or it was down 17.82 percent according to a April 16 memo from Police Chief Derrick Diggs. The different sources of crime statistics are not easily compared because they offer numbers on different types of crime.
Mr. Collins said he plans to hire 40 officers a year for four years. With an expected 25 to 30 retirements every year, that would mean a net gain of 40 to 60 by the end of one term.