MABTON - Alert Mabton residents have likely noticed a change that's occurred in the past couple of weeks: there's now a police officer on duty 24-hours a day.
According to Interim Police Chief Robert Perales, plans for non-stop police coverage have been in the works since his arrival in Mabton.
"Before, they didn't have coverage during the daytime, at any time, with the exception of maybe some day coverage on Mondays and Tuesdays," Perales said. "Based on researching the (service call) logs and hearing input from citizens, I found Sunday was one of the busiest days of calls for service," he said, adding that some time ago, he made changes to Sunday's schedule for that reason.
Perales said that, oftentimes, if an officer called in sick, there was no back up and Mabton had no police coverage at all. "If an officer called in sick, it could almost be a couple of days before there was an officer (on-duty) in the city."
Perales said he's been hiring one officer at a time, placing him in key hours to maximize coverage.
This week, Perales said he plans the staffing level to increase to four full time officers with the hiring of a new police officer. He also plans on having three part-time paid reserve officers.
On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, residents will see two officers on duty during peak service call hours.
Perales said that the city lacked the understanding of how law and justice tax monies should be spent.
He explained that Mabton didn't utilize all of the money budgeted for the police department in 2005, resulting in law and justice tax monies rolling over, unexpended, into 2006. Perales believes Mabton also didn't expend all of the budgeted funds to the police department in 2006. If that's the case, the law and justice tax monies will remain unexpended until 2007.
In order to use those funds, Mabton has to use up the money it budgeted for the police department this year; they are unable to tap into the law and justice tax monies until they do.
"There was a lack of understanding on the city's part as far as how (the law and justice tax monies) were going to be utilized. It was critical when I stepped in that they come back in line with that stuff."
Another goal for 2007, he said, is readying the police force for Mabton's expected growth as a city.