Saskatoon’s Board of Police Commissioners is recommending that city council approve the hiring of six new officers for the Saskatoon Police Service.
The board voted unanimously following a presentation from Chief Clive Weighill on Thursday. Of the six new hires, four would be added to patrols on the east side of Saskatoon. The other two would be detectives.
Weighill told the commissioners that Saskatoon is seeing a rising number of calls in the city’s east end as neighbourhoods there have grown.
Weighill said the city is also feeling the effects of a spike in crystal meth use across Western Canada. He said the drug is often found fueling petty thefts, break-ins, armed robberies and home invasions.
“Six officers are not going to change the world. But six officers will help us maintain our visibility on the streets and the two positions within criminal investigations will help us with some of our covert activities,” he said.
Mayor Charlie Clark said he came into the meeting with concerns about rising costs. Even so, he said he voted in favour of getting the officers hired as soon as possible because it’s clear they are needed.
Clark said he still wants to engage with the province on programming in areas like mental health and addictions to prevent crime, rather than trying to solve social ills with increases to the police budget.
“There have been some other services and programs getting pulled back and the police service is ending up as the service of last resort to deal with those. And I don’t want to be back-filling some of those issues. But I do want our citizens to know we have the ability to respond and make sure that we’re keeping the community as safe as possible,” he said.
City council will have the final say on any potential hiring for the police service when they go through budget deliberations in December.
Currently, the city’s proposed tax increase of 3.89 per cent works out to around $67.55 for an average homeowner.
Weighill told the board the new officers would add about 0.34 per cent to the tax increase. That works out to just under $5.75 for an average homeowner.