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Public safety millage questions and answers: Questions and comments have been pouring in to Royal Oak Patch since the Royal Oak City Commission unanimously voted to start the process to put a referendum on the ballot this November asking the voters for a public safety millage of 3.975 mills over five years.
To answer readers' questions, Patch talked to Interim Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue in his office in downtown Royal Oak. Here’s the fourth in a series of Q & As with the chief.
[Read the first round of questions.]
[Read the second round of questions.]
[Read the third round of questions.]
I would like to know how much the crime rate has gone up this year versus last. Are there any specific areas where crime has gone up, for example the new LA Fitness or the movie theater?
At the Royal Oak Safe Neighborhood Community Dialogue in June, O'Donohue gave a presentation that showed the overall trend in crime is down over the past decade.
(See the attached video and graphs that O'Donohue used in his presentation.)
"Larceny from vehicle is very common at fitness places," O'Donohue said. "Thieves know people don't want to bring their wallets and purses into the gym."
As for the Emagine Royal Oak, the chief said there is no related increase in crime.
Again, the chief stressed that while crime is trending down (over the last 10 years), Royal Oak has seen slight increases in property crimes, larcenies and burglaries over the last two years.
The dramatic cuts in staffing levels (down to 66 sworn officers from 103 a decade ago) have had an impact on his staff.
"We want to be proactive, rather than feel like we our constantly chasing our tails," O'Donohue said.
Are certain establishments drawing a disproportionate amount of crime?
"There are two good ways to track crime and the activities of the police department," said O'Donohue. "First, I would encourage residents to sign up for the weekly email updates from the police department. Also, any citizen can review crime reports taken by the ROPD on Crimemapping.com."
Crimemapping.com also allows users to sign up for the free crime alerts so residents can be informed in real time about crime in their neighborhood.
Several Royal Oak public safety officials have retired in their early 50s with a full pension due to overly generous programs where employees are able to boost credited service time. Will this millage enable more of the same? And, can employees still purchase service time?
“The millage is to fund additional personnel who are sorely needed,” said O’Donohue.
Changes were made with labor contracts and new employees no longer have the option to boost credited service time or purchase service time. Officers must work at least 25 years to qualify for a pension.
Previously, new employees with prior military experience could buy up to three years towards retirement and that’s been done away with, O’Donohue said.
Due to changes in labor contracts, new officers will not get health care after retirement and retiree health care, not so much the pensions, is the big drain on the pension system, said O'Donohue.
The chief also noted police and firefighters do not receive any cost of living increases in their pension and are not eligible to receive Social Security.