VHA mulls cutting police presence

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Despite a decline in crime reports at Vicksburg Housing Authority properties, police might have less of a presence at the subdivisions after a one-year contract with the City of Vicksburg expires May 31.

“I’m looking at the possibility of scaling the program back in the future, rather than just abandoning it,” VHA executive director Dannie Walker told the housing board of commissioners Tuesday. “I initiated a meeting with the Vicksburg Police Department about our contract because of our funding situation the way it is this year — not knowing what we’re going to be funded for the remainder of the year.”

Walker proposed reducing by half the number of hours police patrol the subdivisions.

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VHA contracted with the city in June 2010 to post an officer at four of the authority’s six subdivisions — Waltersville Estates, Rolling Acres, Urban Court and Valley Court — for daily 12-hour shifts, 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. The contract is $163,155 per year, or $29.95 per hour.

With increased fuel costs, Walker said, a renewed contract would bump the hourly rate to $39.95.

“I don’t think we’ll be able to sustain the (full-time) service at the current level of funding,” Walker said. “We would have to look at that and, based on our budget, determine how many hours we can afford to do.”

Walker, hired in July 2009, said police data shows the number of calls and reports declined with the extra patrols that began in June. Calls made to police fell from 975 in 2009 to 605 in 2010. Reports of crime recorded by police also fell, from 409 in 2009 to 278 in 2010.

In 2010, between June and December when extra patrols were on site, 303 calls were recorded and 124 reports of crime were taken.

Those numbers were down from the same months in 2009, when 634 calls were made and 246 reports of crime were taken. VHA had hired security before contracting with police.

The housing authority’s board gave Walker approval to negotiate a new contract with the city, with stipulations.

“Keeping the service full-time through the summer would be my recommendation,” commission president Christopher Barnett Sr. said.

A renewed contract must be approved by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

In other business, the commission OK’d a request from Central Mississippi Prevention Services to implement a six-week summer youth activities program on site for $25,000. Last week, the city voted, in the absence of North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield, to contribute $17,815.50 to the program.

Also, the VHA proposed having energy-efficient windows installed in its properties except Waltersville Estates with $792,000 in capital fund program money through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Walker said new windows were installed at Waltersville with federal stimulus dollars.

He said an architect is working on the design and cost estimates for the project that he said would save tenants money on utilities.

VHA manages 430 homes at six subdivisions. Funding comes from the federal Housing and Urban Development administration and rent.