Walnut Creek PD forced to suspend safety programs


Tuesday night city officials were hashing out budget issues since Walnut Creek is looking at a budget shortfall of nearly $2.5 million. There's not enough money to fill some police department positions and the overtime budget is nearly shot, so changes are coming.

Residents of Walnut Creek will still get police service, but it will not at the same level they're used to.

"I personally don't think I'll be better off any time they cut back. We pay our taxes here, we always want the best that we can possibly get when it comes to protection," said Walnut Creek resident Dennis Holmes.

For starters, the traffic unit is being eliminated, meaning some motorcycle officers will be assigned regular patrol duties and that could cause some traffic tie-ups. Also, extra traffic enforcement around schools and neighborhoods will be stopped.

"Extra meaning our motorcycle officers will probably not, during the short term of the plan, will not have time to do that, correct," said Walnut Creek Police Chief Joel Bryden.

Also the community policing team will end its focus on schools and now concentrate on the downtown entertainment district where there have been problems with rowdiness.

"The public for the most part will not notice any change. We'll have slightly less traffic enforcement. We'll give slightly less specialized service to the schools, but we'll still be available for any crime issue," said Bryden.

Neighborhood Watch groups will also be affected. No longer will they have a single point person in the department they can go directly to. She's been moved to a different job. Now block captains will have to reach a lieutenant who might be busy on the road.

"There may not be as many meetings anymore. We can't facilitate that as much as we like to. But if there's a specific and dangerous crime trend out there, then we can help out with that," said Walnut Creek Police Sgt. Sean Conley.

"It's a sign of the times at this point. What the problem is, you've got to rob Peter to pay Paul," said Holmes.

The city says the cutbacks will be temporary, at least until July when the new fiscal year starts. The police department had a similar restructuring last year and officials say there was no jump in crime. In fact crime rates declined last year.

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