American Rescue Plan Funds
The past few years have challenged the City of Erie government like never before. Despite these hardships, the City of Erie administration negotiated with our unions to reduce spending, identified ways to increase city revenues, tackled our long-term debt issue head-on by paying down the city’s debt, fixed the pension problem by changing interest rate assumptions and updating the mortality table, and put us on a path to balance the budget for the next 5 years without an increase in property or income taxes.
The City has borne heavy costs dealing with the pandemic, including the need for safety modifications, the purchase of PPE and supplies, decreased revenues in taxes and fees, increased labor costs, manpower issues due to employees being off due to exposures as well as confirmed positive cases. The ARP funds will enable the City to be reimbursed and to set the stage for future growth and economic recovery. Below are two infographics that outline funding proposals from our Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) and the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Erie (RACE).
A study session was held on the DECD proposal on 11/09/2021. You can view it here.
A study session was held on the RACE proposal on 10/05/2021. You can view it here.
A study session was held on the POLICE proposal on 11/18/21. You can view it here.
These proposals are designed to deploy funding to our small businesses, entrepreneurs, and residents, and will be voted on by City Council at their meeting on 11/17/2021.
The Redevelopment Authority’s Comprehensive Housing Plan, supporting Aaron Snippert as Executive Director, the City of Erie has placed an excellent Board there that includes Atty. Jay Alberstadt, Kevin Nelson (Pastor of Abundant Life Church and Founder of Home House), Chuck Scalise (former Executive Director of HANDS), Rose Graham (former Executive Director of SSJNN), and Kathy Wyrosdick. In addition, Chris Groner, Brian Hudson, former executive director of PHFA, has been providing excellent guidance and advice. The City of Erie has full faith and confidence in this plan and will be measuring progress to ensure that the City of Erie is on track.
2). What is the difference between obligating and allocating the funds?
Obligating funds means that we are asking for the funding to be put into buckets to be disbursed at a later date as a result of a series of actions.
Allocating funds is the actual distribution of funds for a specific purpose. For instance, once the administration evaluates the Flagship Fund applications, they would propose an allocation of funds for specific projects or initiatives that would once again appear on Council’s agenda
Why do we want to obligate the funds before the end of the year?
It is vital that the City of Erie get this passed before the end of the year, or we will lose the presumed benefit with the change in Qualified Census Tracts (QCTs). The area north of 6th Street in East Bayfront, downtown, and West Bayfront will no longer be in a QCT.
For additional information, please review the ARP PowerPoint presentation that City Planner Kathy Wyrosdick and ARP Manager Jackie Spry presented to the ARP Council of Advisors at their first meeting on October 22.
Over the past 4 years. many residents have spoken up regarding various complaints including:
• Drunks in parks or on the Bayfront
• Pan handlers
• People experiencing homelessness
• Juvenile curfew violations
• Drug houses
• Shootings and stabbings.
Like other communities, these issues have escalated over the past 2 years due to COVID-19.
The American Rescue Plan (ARP) was designed to address the impact of COVID-19. President Biden has said ARP funds can be used for:
• Hiring Police
• Tackling gun violence
• Fighting crime waves
• Improving services provided to communities
Making our community safe and encouraging people and businesses to stay, invest, and grow here, requires us to provide safety and security.
Staffing 2005 to 2021
The Erie Police Department has been, for the past 15 years, policing with the same level of officers.
Back in 2005, the City was on the verge of Act 47 and was forced to cut over 40 officers.
• Detectives and staff
• The crisis car
• The Juvenile Unit
• The K-9 unit.
All were eliminated.
The start of the Police Athletic League, a COPS Program, and Community Relations Outreach Programs have been transformational to our community.
Then 2020 hit…. COVID-19. Not only was policing turned upside down, so were everyone’s lives.
EPD witnessed an increase in mental health problems, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, overdoses, shootings, assaults, domestic violence, and juvenile crimes.
Suddenly walking around downtown and along the Bayfront did not feel safe. We had shootings by the dock and the waterfront this past year.
In 2020, the ATF prepared a violent crime assessment report for the Erie Police Department.
Its findings showed that both shooting incidents and shooting victim rates were increasing. Erie Police Department’s own statistics showed:
Stolen firearms yearly were rising. In 2021, they are still rising.
Recovered firearms are rising also. Which shows EPD was working hard but many guns are still out there.
Homicides in Erie have continued to increase over the past 20 years.
In 5-year periods:
• 2001 – 2005: 20 (2005 juvenile unit was eliminated)
• 2006 – 2010: 32
• 2011 – 2015: 44 Homicides (2 victims were 16 years old, 2 suspects were 14 years old). Yes, 14-year old suspects committing homicides.
• 2016 – 2020: 48 Homicides (1 victim 14 years old, 2 suspects 14 years old).
• In 2021, we have had 7 homicides, two of which occurred in the past week. And two of the cases this year were directly tied to the 14-year old who was killed last year.
EPD has been working operation 4 Nation since 2018 when a series of major crimes occurred, including 3 homicides, multiple robberies, home invasions, and burglaries. EPD recently made arrests of gang members who were 16, 17, and 19 years old.
• Juvenile Contacts: In 1 year, we have had 500 more documented contacts with juveniles by police.
• Juvenile Arrests: Yet, arrests of juveniles are nearly at an all-time low.
In order to help our young people get the services and support they need, EPD needs officers working with juvenile probation to get the youth into diversion programs. However, EPD detectives have so many major crimes to handle that they don’t have time to work on preventative solutions for our youth.
FURTHER DEMANDS ON POLICE
• AOA (Assist Other Agencies): In the past 5 years, Police have responded to more and more calls for help by other agencies.
• AOA’s calls have escalated from 2,300 just four years ago to almost 3,000 to-date. This is in addition to crisis services and mental health calls.
• Overdoses: In 2019-20, there were 137 Overdoses. In 2020-21, that jumped to 286. Officers are also using Narcan at a much higher rate, in 2019-20, they used Narcan 106 times compared to 212 times in 2020-21.
Currently, the Erie Police Department has 175 Officers
• 5 Command Staff
• 10 Staff
• 30 Detectives
• 130 Uniformed Officers
This includes: Motorcycle/Bikes, NAT, SAT, and the QUEBEC Unit)
That is not that many officers when covering 3 shifts, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Detectives follow-up and investigate crimes when the suspect is not known.
We have: Major Crimes, Burglary, White Collar, Vice (Drug squad)
Currently, the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) gets over 3,000 major crimes reports.
• Almost 5,000 Part II Crimes reports.
• 8,000 cases divided by 30 Detectives = 267 cases per year.
• In 2020 – there were 1,425 unassigned cases.
• In 2021 – there are 1,615 unassigned cases to-date
Due to the lack of officers, we are forced to prioritize crimes from low to high-level. Only the most serious cases are assigned.
PFM Staffing Report
In 2019, PFM Consulting did a study of the City of Erie’s finances.
The study showed a comparison of Police staffing in Erie, Allentown, Reading, Scranton, and Bethlehem. At 1.75 per 1,000 residents, the Erie Police Department has the LEAST staffing per capita of all of the other agencies.
• 166 (paid by city budget).
• 6 paid by Housing Authority of the City of Erie. A very successful program.
• 1 grant pays for an Insurance fraud Detective.
• 1 grant pays for an Auto theft Detective.
• 1 grant pays for a PAL/Recruitment coordinator. The PAL grant expires in 2022.
• 175 officers total
EPD supports multiple task forces and programs.
DA drug , Attorney General, FBI Drug, DEA Drug, Gun working Group, US Marshals, PA Aggressive Driving Task Force, DA’s DUI Task Force, Tobacco Compliance Drug and Alcohol Programs, Police Athletic League, Community Outreach Programs.
There are over 200 Task Force Positions filled by approximately 140 officers!
Officers are working 2, 3, and 4 Task Forces on top of their regular duties.
These Task Forces and programs are important; outside monies pay for them.
Grants and Department Savings
This year, as of October 31, 2021, we brought in grants to pay for:
• $360,696 in overtime
• $509,917 for Salary and Benefits, including Insurance Fraud Detective, Auto Theft Detective, PAL supervisor, Civilian Analyst
• $509,901 for equipment
That totals nearly $1.4 million that we have secured from outside sources in the last 10 months. We have brought in about $5 million in the past 4 years.
Latest Police Contract, which was negotiated in 2020, saw:
Lowest raises in over 30 years
Extension of the step-up in salary increments from 3 steps to 6 steps
Savings of $6 million over an 8-year contract.
Many other PFM Financial recommendations have been completed.
Based on many conversations with our community partners, the increase in crime since COVID-19, our comparatively low staffing, and the cost savings we have implemented, my command staff and I propose the use of ARP funding to implement a surge strategy to help fix some of these issues.
Proposed ARP Funding Use
EPD is requesting 21 new officers be hired for the following assignments:
• 9 new officers in order to restart the Crisis Car.
• This will EPD a 2-Officer car, 7 days a week, for all three shifts.
• Reinstate a unit of specially-trained officers to work directly with social service and mental health partners.
They will respond to calls of mental health crises and transport as needed.
They will work with the homeless population and deal with issues downtown.
The specialized training is the key.
• 6 new detectives to restart the Juvenile Unit.
• Reinstating a unit of specially-trained Juvenile Detectives to work directly with the juvenile justice system.•
• Work with School Police and Juvenile Probation in order to DIVERT minor crimes in juvenile diversion type programs.
Detectives will assist with other major crimes as needed.
Having no juvenile detectives for the past 15 years has created a generation of juvenile Offenders whose minor infractions did not get addressed and is now responsible for the upward trend in shootings and gang activity.
• Lastly, 6 new Officers for capacity building.
• 4 new officers to fill vacancies on the Neighborhood Action Team who work the high-crime nighttime hours and concentrate on GUN and GANG violence, along with addressing complaints of drug activity.
They will attend Neighborhood Watch meetings and work with neighbors to develop solutions to their concerns.
• 2 New officers will fill street duties of the PAL and COP program supervisors to free up the supervisors to continue their work on building and expanding these important community programs.
• Every Dollar spent on extra policing generates about $1.63 in Social Benefits.
The total cost of this proposal is about $14 million. You can see the breakdown on the slide.
By hiring up to 21 new officers to backfill patrol so we can create these units with existing officers who will receive specialized training, we believe we can:
•Make a positive impact
• Grow and develop our community policing initiatives
• Provide an opportunity to bring 8 people of color and women into the department based on the current list
• Reduce crime
• Prevent those who commit minor crimes from escalating to major crimes
• Connect our residents to the services and resources they need
• Divert our youth into programs that will keep them out of jail and put them on a productive pathway.