Columbia Slated to Build More Police Stations

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COLUMBIA - Next year's budget, which Columbia City Manager Mike Matthes unveiled Friday, allocates millions of dollars to create an additional police station, and update the current downtown headquarters, over the next few years.

Chief of Police Ken Burton said the extra station would make response times quicker and create a better community presence.

"Neighborhood policing allows you to get to know the citizens, and the business owners and the people that work and play in that part of the city, and it just improves overall law enforcement and safety procedures," Burton said.

KOMU 8 News asked viewers to comment on its Facebook page.

Some expressed concern with the department's current operations.

Christie Holliday wrote, "I live one street over from McKee, with the murder you would think you would see some police in the area, no such luck. My neighbor called the police the other day, it took them 25 minutes to get here. The cop that was supposed to be in this area was south of town."

Others said they thought the project would be a good idea, but wish it had come earlier.

Gardner Cole wrote, "Living in northeast Columbia, a higher presence would certainly be welcome and definitely help relations with the public. Though it should have happened in 03-05 when development out here was starting up, better late than never."

One viewer worried about the cost of the project.

Donnie Esry wrote, "I think it sounds crazy to me! They talk about having budget problems! That's only going to be more costly!"

And another viewer suggested the idea does not go far enough.

Casey Nelson wrote, "I like the idea! Anything to improve safety in Columbia!!! But, if they add precincts they need to add more police officers as well! We can't address one without addressing the other!"

The department requested the creation based on suggestions from of an architectural consultant.

The consultant looked at population, possible growth in the city and what kind of facilities the department had. The firm suggested these buildings and expansions to keep up with the city of Columbia's growing needs.

Burton noted the city is more than 65 square miles and said that is a large amount to cover from one central base.

All police officers currently report to the central location in downtown Columbia. Burton said having officer's report to new stations instead, will put officers in the neighborhoods they actually work.

Burton also requested the city to fund a second station in south Columbia after the other improvements. Plans for that station are in the capital improvement plan draft, but not in Friday's approved budget.

According to the budget, the approved station and improved headquarters will cost more than $20 million dollars, and take years to complete.

"I would love to have all of it at once but that's just not realistic. What I hope is we put plans on paper to build one of the facilities and moved into it, and a couple years after that work on the second," Burton said. ‘It will be a gradual process. It's a multimillion dollar project, it will take time."

The city manager has not yet announced a specific location for the approved substation.