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Guest Opinion | Council Candidate Kevin Litwin: Does Pasadena Need To Increase Its Public Safety Budget?

Published on Wednesday, January 8, 2020 | 6:03 am

There are many reasons to pick a city to live in and Pasadena has many positive attributes – that is why my wife Katie, my rescue dog Dooley and I live here. If elected to the District 2 Council seat, the most crucial areas of city governance I would always keep focused on would be: Pasadena’s growth, while making our city safe to work, play and raise a family in. Public safety is my number one priority for the city, for obvious reasons. No one wants to live in fear of being physically assaulted or a victim of other crimes. Unfortunately, I feel this fear has been on the rise in recent years. Just recently, over 68% of Pasadena voters supported Measure I, which allocated money from a new sales tax to “improve neighborhood and school safety,” among other things. So let’s take a quick look at current expenditures and results.

According to the Treasurer of the Pasadena Police Officers Association, David Llanes, the Police Department at one point had a staff of 273 and was on target to reach 300. The “Great Recession” reversed those numbers to today’s staff of 239. Five of those positions were recently being defunded, but negotiations with the City saved them from being eliminated this time. Keep in mind that Pasadena’s population is around 144,000; plus, with its many popular public events, that number fluctuates upward significantly. According to the City’s online Monthly Statistical Report – based on Call for Service (CFS) data – the combined totals of all crimes through November is 3,409. This is fewer than in 2018. Will that number continue to decrease? While crime may be decreasing, is the public’s perception of crime also decreasing?

If we compare Pasadena to similar local cities, such as Glendale, Burbank, Santa Clarita or Thousand Oaks, we will find that all of these cities have a higher percentage of their budgets dedicated to their police departments than does Pasadena. Our largest neighbor, Los Angeles, also devotes a higher percentage of its budget to the LAPD. I feel that we need to look at our current spending, keeping in mind voter-approved items such as Measure I. If those funds are not being used for increasing our police force, they definitely should be used for marketing the crime statistics success, to help address those public perceptions.

This is one of the major reasons I decided to run for City Council: to reexamine our priorities and to make sure our schools and neighborhoods are safe for our children and families.

Let’s be clear and reiterate: The Pasadena Police Department is made up of some of the most professional and well-trained officers in the nation. These 239 dedicated women and men in the PPD are being asked to perform the herculean task of keeping a busy city of 144,000-plus citizens safe, while in the shadow of our nation’s second most populated city.

I grew up in an Ohio neighborhood where my neighbors were police officers and emergency personnel. My father is a retired 35-year Fire Fighter and we lived within city limits. But in Pasadena, many of our emergency employees are forced to live outside the city due to the lack of affordable housing. What then happens if a major earthquake or other disaster makes it challenging – or impossible – for our emergency personnel to return to Pasadena to help manage that crisis? In Pasadena’s emergency services spending budget I envision a safe and affordable city for everyone, including city employees. I am 100% supportive of programs that make it possible for those who work in Pasadena to be able to live in Pasadena.

The responsibility of city government is to listen to its citizens and to take action to make positive changes in our community. The resources are there, we simply need the political courage to see the will of the people through.

Kevin Litwin is a Pasadena City Commissioner, a California State Parks Commissioner and a candidate for Pasadena City Council, District 2.

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