THIBODAUX, Louisiana — Thibodaux police are looking to hire three new patrol officers ahead of a special election intended to raise money for the city's operating expenses and capital projects.
Mayor Tommy Eschete tells The Daily Comet (http://bit.ly/1HZiWbd) the city spent $6 million on the police in 2013 and $5.8 million last year, and he expects the city to spend about $5.6 million this year.
However, the mayor said he's comfortable adding a few new positions so current officers can be moved to a narcotics unit Thibodaux Police plan to reintroduce. So far this year, the police department has made 116 drug arrests.
"One of the things we do want to look at is to get back into providing our own narcotics unit as opposed to just being part of the Lafourche Parish Drug Task Force," Eschete said. "There's nothing wrong with that, but we felt ... we needed to pay more attention to what was going on in Thibodaux."
Eschete said the police department constitutes about a third of the city's 200-strong staff. As of this month, the department had 66 full-time employees, including 23 patrol officers.
The decision to hire more patrol officers was announced after the Thibodaux City Council voted to add a half-cent sales tax increase on the March 5 ballot. If passed, the increase will bring the sales tax in the city to 8.95 cents on the dollar. Officials say the tax will go toward roads, public safety, parks and recreation.
Statistics show in the past five years, violent and property crimes in Thibodaux have been cut nearly in half, from 845 in 2010 to 434 last year. But the mayor said reducing patrol would mean a drop in service.
"Regardless of what the level is or how much it's been brought down in the last five years, we want to keep working if it means different patrol strategies, different tactics - whatever it might be to put a dent in that number," he said. "In Thibodaux, to hear about somebody being murdered is an event. We want to make sure it stays like that."
Information from: Daily Comet, http://www.dailycomet.com