Lynchburg’s Public Safety system has been shredded by over a decade of Liberal majority leadership in City Council.
- 2021 set a record for murders and violent crime in the Hill City, our Police Headquarters is crumbling and we can’t fill our vacant police officer positions.
- We haven’t built a new fire station in over 30 years, and on most days 2 fire engines are out of service because we can’t recruit the manpower needed to protect you.
- We’ve lost nearly half of the paramedics in our Fire Department in recent years, and our 911 call center is dangerously understaffed.
- We are over-working our first responders with dangerous amounts of overtime, which impacts their safety and our community’s safety at the same time.
Lynchburg is trying to play catch-up in the Fiscal Year 2023 budget process to compensate for over a decade of failed leadership from City Hall on public safety. While increased starting pay for firefighters and police officers are necessary to mitigate recruitment challenges, changes in compensation for incumbent members are critical to retaining highly qualified and well-trained veterans of the departments so that recruitment inflow can stabilize staffing levels by reducing the outflow caused by high turnover.
The city needs to invest in the crumbling infrastructure for public safety over the long-term, and strategic planning needs to be adopted to begin replacing fire stations, and build a new police department headquarters. The city should consider capitalizing on valuable real estate currently occupied by Lynchburg Fire Stations as a way to decrease the capital burden of replacing existing stations, and use analytics to determine call distribution for locating new fire stations that reduce response times to common incident locations, and cover the gaps that exist on the west-side of the city where increased traffic volume impacts response.
Cost-sharing can occur by co-locating a Fire Department Headquarters and Police Headquarters in a single building, which is a similar approach used by similar situated cities and even larger cities in the Commonwealth – creating a public safety headquarters – where a backup Emergency Operations Center can exist for continuity of government operations in the face of a local emergency or disaster. This approach will save money over the long run, and replace the crumbling Fire Station 1 on Clay Street and the Police Headquarters at the same time.
The city needs to also create a culture through our police department that denies criminal street gangs from operating within our city limits, to discourage our city’s youth from joining gangs, and crackdown on gang-related crimes. We also need to be aggressive in bolstering up the staffing and retention in our Department of Emergency Services – because that is the citizen’s access point to public safety. No one should ever be put on hold when calling 911 during routine daily operations when we aren’t under a state of emergency. Your safety should be government’s number one priority, and annual investment should match that commitment. Essential services will be the most important budget item that all others revolve around if I am on city council.
I am ready on day one to propose and support new policy initiatives that our lives depend on.