Erie Police Dept. struggling with overcrowding

5:02 PM, Jan 25, 2014   |    comments
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ERIE - The Erie Police Department and the Keep Erie Safe organization are asking residents to vote yes on a ballot measure in April that will allow the building a new facility that will incorporate the police department and courthouse.

An open house was held Saturday to show residents how much the police department is struggling.

Chief Marco Vasquez said the problem has become so severe, officers sometimes have to interrogate suspects in the hallway. The 25 square foot evidence room is so packed, officers are forced to close the women's bathroom to use as storage. The county prosecutor works under the stairs in a cramped space.

"We're bursting at the seams now. To say we're bursting at the seams is literally an understatement," said Chief Vasquez. "It's just not up to standard in law enforcement in 2014."

Chief Vasquez said the cramped spaces make it difficult for officers to perform their best work. 

"The habit of hanging bloody clothing on a clothes hanger in the women's bathroom is not the best practice in law enforcement," Vasquez said. "There are no other options."
A ballot measure in April would approve a new facility that is 7 times bigger than the current building. The cost is $6.2 million and taxpayers will have to pay. It's based on property value. Someone with a $100,000 home will pay about $1 per month to pay for the new facility.

The same initiative was denied in 2012 by a little more than 30 votes. The police department and some members of the community are actively fighting to pass the ballot this year.

Other residents like Karen Jones are hesitant about the initiative saying the 17,000 square foot facility is not necessary.

"Well sometimes that's the way life is," Jones said. "I've had to deal with small spaces."

Some residents are questioning why the money to build a new facility cannot be taken from the town's reserve fund. The chief said that can't happen because the money is specifically designated for emergencies.
The Erie Police Department wants residents to stop by and see the crowded building so they can understand how it affects the community.
"We have a rapidly growing community and it will only continue to grow," Vasquez said. "We need to provide the best public safety service that we can."

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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