Crime tax in Benton County?

BENTON COUNTY - Property crimes are going down and gang crimes going up. It's the story over in Benton County. Officials tell us it's costing more for our police force and jails. KEPR learned it could mean a proposed crime tax.

It's a goal to keep these streets safe. All the while keeping up with our growing community.

Since we last reported, the number of officers per capita is dropping in Kennewick and Richland. But police say it's not the only way to measure success. In Pasco, the ratio is holding steady, due to a boost in officers from its recently-approved crime tax.

The leader of an organization looking into a crime tax for Benton County believes there's no way to get the kind of policing people demand without paying for it.

"They want police on the street, they want efficient courts that meet out justice. They want people held accountable for the misdeeds," said Benton County Criminal Justice Citizen's Advisory Committee Chair Richard Nordgren.

Richard Nordgren is working with fellow members of his committee to present a lengthy plan to the county. That's likely in the coming weeks. It will focus on Benton County crime trends and needs. The committee wouldn't confirm that a crime tax would be proposed. It's just too early to say, and county commissioners didn't respond either.

Reporter: "As a committee, what are you hoping will be the solution?"
"Well, we are going to like to see additional services that are going to require additional revenues," responded Nordgren.

He did say findings show Benton County is safer since the 90's. The number of reported crimes hasn't grown with the population. But gang crime is up. Saying more officers are needed.

"Major crimes out here in this area - pshaw - don't worry about it at all," said Benton County resident Tom Doyle.

Tom Doyle has lived in the county for over 30 years. He says it would take him good reason to vote on a crime tax.

"They'd really have to justify something like that for me," added Doyle.

It's the balance of stretching our dollars, to care for this community.

Benton County residents have voted down a crime tax the past two attempts. We should know by next month if a crime tax is expected to hit the ballot again.