Public safety in Auburn was a top priority for the Auburn City Council as they discussed upcoming budgets at a recent work session.
As Auburn’s population climbed over 76,000, residents are looking toward Auburn police and fire to accommodate and serve the growing community.
As well as the population growth, on the police side, there has been a steady conversation across the country about the police force and changes to be made in response to recent events. With both of these in consideration, Auburn Police have looked inside to determine what changes would most benefit the city.
Many of the changes are about improving upon which is already set in place.
Hiring new personnel is first on the list. To accommodate the increased population, in the past years the city has approved more than a dozen new positions to expand the department. Police Chief Cedric Anderson also explained that the department has faced some turnover, which can also account additional positions that need to be filled. However, as Chief Anderson explained, this turnover is something that the country has faced as a whole, and does not reflect on Auburn, specifically. Political tension over American police in the past few years has led to changes across the nation and overall has caused an increase in officers leaving the force.
That being said, although there are still 18 positions to be filled, Chief Anderson was clear during a recent budget work session that this does not mean the department is short-staffed. City Manager Megan Crouch pointed out that more police officers are currently on the road than Auburn has ever had before.
Anderson said that according to the Uniform Crime Reporting Program, “the City of Auburn performs better than any other agency within 150 miles.”
The department credits this performance to the high standards they keep their personnel. These high standards are also why the department has been slow in their process of filling all of the empty positions.
“We did not want to sacrifice our standards,” Anderson said about the hiring process. “We felt the citizens deserve the best we can find and not just filling spots for the sake of filling them.”
With this idea in mind, the department has been methodical in their selection, but also has expedited the hiring process for when they find a fit. Crouch also recommended an expansion of the training budget to ensure adequate training for these new hires, including de-escalation and active shooter training.
The Auburn Police Division has also put heavy focus on interactions with the public and will continue to expand programs in the coming years. One big change has been the launch of its new public safety app (Auburn Public Safety), as well as social media platforms. This has let community members have immediate and direct interaction with the city’s public safety.
“We wanted to get the message out that we want to get out about how our folks were performing the services we’re providing to the community,” said Anderson.
This gives the police department the ability to be the first to announce safety updates and important information.
Other community programs include the Eagle Watch Program in which participants give the police permission to home security and doorbell cameras to help investigate and solve crimes. Another is CRASE, which is “Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events.” These presentations are set to educate the public on what to do in an active shooter event before the police arrive. Anderson said the public responded positively to the first presentation and there is an overwhelming push for more.
On the fire division side, personnel expansion has also been at the forefront. In the last year, the department hired 33 firefighters. They will also be converting a total of 18 student firefighter positions to full-time career positions within the next two years. Crouch said this conversion will help to staff shifts with better consistency.
Although it reduces student firefighters, it will benefit them in the long run as these conversions will open up career positions for them to eventually take.
“We train really great firefighters who work all over the southeastern United States because they can’t have a career here because we don’t have enough career positions,” said Crouch.
These new career positions will give the student firefighters a place to stay after graduation, which is an investment the city is anticipating.
These new positions are in conjunction with the opening of Station 6. Set to open in mid July, this new station will help better assist the north-west Auburn population.
As this year has been the busiest in history for Auburn Fire with nearly 7000 calls and with expectations for it to increase in the next year, the additional station and fire fighters will help cover more ground within Auburn.