Overtime cuts force cops off street

HOUSTON From his back yard in the 6th Ward, Andrew Hewitt says he's satisfied with the police presence on his street.

"There's certainly a lot of through traffic, but HPD is really capable and have done a great job," he told us.

But Hewitt and his neighbors may have a different opinion in a few months. That's because the Houston Police Department is getting ready to make deep cuts into its police overtime budget.

"It's a problem, especially with the constant gang activity on the news, not only in inner city neighborhoods but outlying communities as well," Hewitt said.

Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt brought council members the sobering numbers today.

There will be a $14.8 million decrease in overtime funding for the next fiscal year which equates to taking 156 full time officers off the streets. Even with the two additional planned cadet classes in next year's budget, it results in a reduction of 115 full time officers. The chief says there's no need to panic.

"There are some good things that are happening and I don't think that people should be overly alarmed that we're having some reductions," said Chief Hurtt.

There are no layoffs and even a slight increase in total officers, but council members are not happy saying any significant decrease in police overtime is unacceptable.

"I think we need to look through the entire budget again and see where cuts need to be made so we can add because public safety is the number one concern for the city of Houston," said councilmember Wanda Adams.

The council will vote on this budget in late June, but not before members look for more funding.

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