The V.I. Police Department is short-staffed, exacerbating overtime expenses, and a large number of sworn police department personnel are eligible to retire, with even more slated to become eligible in the next two years, Police Commissioner Rodney Querrard said during budget hearings Friday.
Currently 109 VIPD personnel are eligible to retire, with 56 in the St. Thomas/St. John district and 53 on St. Croix, Querrard said. And in 2014, another 11 officers on St. Croix and six on St. Thomas and St. John become eligible, with similar numbers in 2015, Querrard told the Finance Committee. A combined total of 143 officers are eligible to retire within the next three years, he said.
To try to keep up, the department currently has 22 recruits enrolled at the Police Academy in St. Thomas, with another is scheduled class on St. Croix in November, and Querrard said he hopes to see two classes per year per district going forward.
Meanwhile, some of the crime statistics show improvement. Murders so far this year have decreased by 23.5 percent over the same time span last fiscal year – the second year of declines after a terribly violent 2011. Burglaries and crimes against property are also down.
Robberies on the other hand have increased 10.5 percent since last year.
In Fiscal Year 2013 through June, the VIPD recovered 130 firearms, with 75 on St. Croix and 55 on St. Thomas. Over the same period last year, the department recovered 131 guns.
Robbery arrests are up from 45 in 2012 to 51 in 2013. Burglary arrests are up from 42 to 67 over the same period.
Through July 20, there were 20 murders in the territory, with nine on St. Thomas and 11 on St. Croix. Over the same period last year, there were 32 murders, with 17 on St. Thomas and 15 on St. Croix, he said.
Robberies, felony assaults and other crimes against persons are up 5 percent this year over last.
Querrard presented the department’s General Fund budget request of $56.3 million. That represents a $5.1 million increase from the FY13 appropriation. The VIPD also expects $2.5 million in federal funding and another $1 million from the Tourism Advertising Revolving Fund and other local funding, for a grand total of $59.9 million.
Local funding includes $34.1 million for wages and salaries, including $8.2 million in overtime. Another $11.6 million goes for employer contributions to employee benefits. Out of the $2.5 million in federal funds, $954,000 is for wages and salaries and $153,000 for employer benefit contributions.
The department has $3.4 million slated for supplies; $3.8 million for "other services"; and $2.6 million for utility bills.
No votes were taken during the information gathering budget hearing.