Budget Axe Falling On Lafayette Police Patrols

LAFAYETTE, LA (AP) — A fund that pays off-duty police officers overtime rates to patrol downtown Lafayette's bustling nightlife scene will lose half its resources when the city-parish government's new budget goes into effect Nov. 1.

         Police Chief Jim Craft tells The Advocate’s Lanie Lee Cook the change means — for now — fewer officers will work the detail, and on-duty officers will be pulled from their assigned patrols to respond to major incidents in the downtown area.

         "We'll be looking for some creative ways to continue to have the detail," Craft said. "We just don't have the resources to do it with on-duty officers."

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         As it stands now, more than 10 of the department's 258 officers are assigned to the detail on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, Craft said. Each officer is assigned to a block or side street, he said, and plainclothes officers patrol the streets and bars.

         The Lafayette City-Parish Council threw a kink in those operations when it voted to shift $168,000 from the fund to finance part of a $1.4 million police pay raise plan — a move that reduced funding available for the detail, while also increasing its cost.

         "You have to remember every time there's a pay increase, the hourly rate of the officer goes up," Craft said.

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         Jefferson Street Pub owner Guz Rezende is president of the Downtown Lafayette Restaurant & Bar Association, formed this year, which represents his and nine other late-night establishments that rely on the police presence three nights a week.

         The group invited Craft to its upcoming meeting Nov. 19 to discuss the changes.

         "The chief is going to lay out his plan, and we're going to figure out what to do," Rezende said.

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         From January to August 2014 — the most recent month data was available — officers working the detail received 4,117 calls for service, a number that averages around 500 calls a month for the approximately 12 nights the detail is present, or about 40 calls a night.

         "Now we're starting to see more serious incidents involving weapons and that sort of thing," Craft said. "Before that, it was a lot of public drunkenness and fights."

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