Pubdate: Sat, 20 Jul 2002
Source: Inquirer (PA)
Copyright: 2002 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc
Author: Nathan Gorenstein


Mayor Street Lauds Operation Safe Streets, But He Will Not Discuss Figures. 
A City Official Put The Amount At Millions.

While Operation Safe Streets appears to be having a dramatic impact on 
Philadelphia crime, it is also dramatically driving up Police Department costs.

The 10-week-old program is costing the department more than $4 million a 
month, according to a city official who asked not to be identified.

And the City Controller's Office said yesterday that overtime costs for 
uniformed police went up $2.9 million in May and $4.6 million in June, 
compared with the same months a year ago.

But Mayor Street has decided not to talk about Safe Streets' costs.

Street said yesterday that he would not specify the cost of the effort, 
aimed at halting outdoor drug sales by deploying hundreds of officers to 
stand guard on neighborhood street corners.

"I am never going to come here and say the Safe Streets program costs 'X'," 
Street told reporters.

The operation has been enthusiastically received in city neighborhoods, and 
according to police data released this week, major crime dropped 12 percent 
in May and 16 percent in June compared with the same months in 2001.

That should be good enough for Philadelphians, Street said.

Street's comments came at a press conference with U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter 
(R., Pa.) to announce tentative Senate approval of a $500,000 federal 
appropriation for the program. That sum, if ultimately approved by the full 
Congress, would pay for less than a week of the Safe Streets deployment at 
current levels, based on the city official's estimate.

The mayor was peppered with questions about the cost. Reporters asked how 
the city could afford the special deployment of so many officers, given the 
mayor's insistence earlier this year that Philadelphia risked closing 
recreation centers and cutting services to pay for wage-tax cuts sought - 
and eventually obtained - by City Council members.

Street responded that Safe Streets was crucial to the success of efforts to 
rebuild city neighborhoods and prevent residents from moving to the suburbs.

"To the extent that we think the conditions warrant spending the amount of 
money... it is well within our right to do so," he said. "What I'm telling 
you is, given the nature of conditions that existed prior to May in 
communities, we needed to do something that was effective."

The mayor said Safe Streets had become a "three-level" operation, involving 
officers on corners, short-term undercover drug buys, and longer-term 

"I have no intention of asking the police commissioner to go and dissect 
all of that," Street said. "It's not going happen."

"How much do you think a life is worth?" he asked.

Street also complained that he was never asked about police overtime for 
other events.

However, police-overtime costs have been an issue before, most recently 
during the Republican National Convention in summer 2000, when $10 million 
was appropriated to cover higher-than-usual police costs.

Police overtime slowly increased earlier this year, but then jumped when 
Safe Streets started in May, said Anthony Radwanski, a spokesman for City 
Controller Jonathan A. Saidel.

"The caveat is that these are not all attributable to Operation Safe 
Streets," he added. "We have not been able to get that information."

Councilman Michael Nutter, a member of Council's appropriations committee, 
said cost data might become available if Street sought an ordinance to 
transfer money into the police budget.

"It is interesting that somehow we can know what it costs to fight bin 
Laden in Afghanistan, but we cannot know what it costs to fight drug 
dealers in Philadelphia," he said.

Privately, many political figures in the city have been puzzled at Street's 
refusal to provide cost data, noting that it is creating a controversy that 
would not otherwise exist.

"He has demonstrated an amazing ability to turn nothing into something... 
and keep the controversy going much longer than it ever needs to," Nutter 
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