Griffin, McDonough officials disagree on PD comparison

SHEILA MATHEWS :::

In determining the need of a Police Department restructuring plan that includes the elimination of several positions and the addition of one Code Enforcement officer, Griffin City Manager Kenny Smith said he has compared the law enforcement budgets of other municipalities with populations comparable to Griffin’s such as Newnan, LaGrange, Forest Park and McDonough.

“I think McDonough is probably the closest comparison to Griffin,” he said. “It has to be an apples-to-apples comparison.”

He said the disparity in the law enforcement budgets of the cities of Griffin and McDonough indicates the need to reduce the budget through the elimination of multiple positions.

Griffin Commissioner Doug Hollberg, who has frequently expressed displeasure with the PD budget, declined to speak on the record about the restructuring proposal, but did address funding issues.

“What I will say is that we’ve got a $9 million police budget and it’s killing us. We’ve got a $25 million General Fund and we spend $9 million on a police budget. Decisions are being made to address our inflated police budget,” Hollberg said. “If you want, you can go and compare other municipalities and see what we spend per capita versus other jurisdictions.”

The Grip researched the Griffin and McDonough police departments’ budgets – which are $8,940,523 and $3,625,927, respectively – and also spoke with McDonough City Administrator Frederick Gardiner.

Gardiner, who is intimately familiar with Griffin by having previously served as the city’s director of Planning and Development, said he, too, draws some parallels between the two municipalities, but disagrees with Smith’s comparison regarding law enforcement needs and budgeting.

“No. They don’t compare. The demographics of Griffin are very different than McDonough. The vestiges of the mill industry remain in Griffin, where we have thriving industries in McDonough. We don’t have as many of the depressed areas as Griffin. McDonough is a true bedroom community of Atlanta,” Gardiner said. “It’s the demographic makeup that’s different, and because of that, the crime rate and types of crime differs greatly. Even so, if you go back and look at our numbers from even five or ten years ago, our crime has almost doubled. We’re looking at adding additional police officers. That’s something we’re going to be discussing with our council in the next couple of weeks.”

Year-to-date statistics compiled through Oct. 31 by each Police Department provide insight into each of the jurisdictions’ Part 1 crime rates.

In the one-year period, McDonough recorded zero homicides, five rapes, nine robberies, 12 aggravated assaults, 40 burglaries, 251 thefts, 25 motor vehicle thefts and two cases of arson.

During that same time, Griffin recorded three homicides, 16 rapes, 58 robberies, 89 aggravated assaults, 304 burglaries, 1,270 thefts, 47 motor vehicle thefts and one case of arson.

Altogether, the McDonough Police Department reported 351 Part 1 crimes, and the Griffin Police Department reported 1,788.

Prior to the proposed restructuring plan, the Griffin PD budget accounts for 34.4 percent of the city’s $26,003,685 General Fund, and the McDonough PD budget accounts for 30.95 percent of its city’s $11,826,291 General Fund.

The Grip’s analysis concluded that the proportion of General Fund monies allocated to the Griffin PD exceeds that of McDonough by 3.45 percent, whereas the Part 1 crime rate in Griffin is more than 5.9 times higher than that of McDonough.

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