KEPR asked, "What are the chances of you getting new police officers?"
Sgt. Lattin responds, "That'll be up to the citizens to decide."
Law enforcement in the Tri-Cities intend to push a rise to the sales tax to pay for more law enforcement. A so-called crime tax would add three-tenths of a penny to the current sales tax of 0.083%.
So for example, a Walmart receipt, say, worth $300, add an extra 90 cents to that.
That three-tenths of a cent could be significant. Analysts expect it to bring in more than$4 million dollars a year. It would be spread throughout Benton County. As the largest city, Kennewick would get the lion's share more than $800-thousand dollars. The added costs seems worthy to some.
Tyler Thompson of Kennewick says, "To me, it's not a big deal. I don't think you're going to miss that money. Protective services, fire, police, that's always good use of your money."
But not everyone agrees.
One woman tells KEPR, "No, I think people are having a hard enough time affording the bare minimum. We already spend enough and pay enough taxes."
Benton County is the only county in our area *without *some sort of public safety tax. A recently-passed crime tax is paying for a new jail in Franklin County. And in Walla Walla County, it built a new police station. In Yakima County, it's helped the Sheriff's Department despite shrinking budgets.
Kennewick says this tax is necessary because the city has grown -- but the police department hasn't matched that pace.
And despite the fewer officers per capita, Benton County has seen a decrease in crime. So why is the tax necessary?
Sgt. Lattin explains, "For our investigators, they are constantly getting new cases. They have a very large case load."
Police say serious crimes keep officers behind a desk -- and not in the field. They believe it's time to catch up with our growing community.
It's not just about adding cops. If a criminal justice tax passed in Benton County, 40% of the money would go towards hiring city police. The other 60% would pay for the Benton County court system and jail improvements. The plan would put the issue before voters in the Spring.