FREMONT -- For the first time in nearly a decade, the City Council has voted to hire four new police officers, and more might be on the way.
The additions approved Tuesday will increase the number of total sworn Fremont officers to 185, reversing a trend of job cuts that began in 2003, City Manager Fred Diaz said.
"It's kind of a milestone," Diaz said. "It's been a long time since we added employees."
The new officers will cost the city about $640,000 per year, said Harriet Commons, Fremont's finance director. The new hires will have a minimal impact on the city budget because years of job reductions, the police department's recent cost-cutting strategies and a slight improvement in the economy have bolstered Fremont's coffers, Diaz said.
A belt-tightening fiscal plan the city adopted nearly a year ago also has freed up funds. That plan included cutting more jobs, negotiating more favorable labor agreements and contracting out landscape maintenance work, Diaz said.
The new officers will join the force in about a year, after a six months in the police academy and a 22-week field-training program, Fremont police spokeswoman Geneva Bosques said.
Crime is down, overall, in Fremont, a city of 217,00 people. But home and commercial burglaries -- as in many Bay Area cities -- are up. About 1,200 burglaries were reported in Fremont in 2011, and the city is averaging about 106 per month in 2012, for a total of 744 through the
The increase in police personnel is Fremont's first since 2003, when the city employed 212 sworn officers. The dot-com bust, combined with a sluggish national economy, then forced Bay Area cities to tighten their belts.
Fremont responded with its first wave of big cuts, chopping 50 police positions, including 26 civilians and 24 officer jobs, Bosques said.
"We've continued to dwindle, until now," she said.
When the new officers join the department, its resident-to-officer ratio will be 0.85, still lower than the average -- a ratio of 1.04 -- for cities the size of Fremont.
City Council members have said that they still would like to add three to six more officers.
"Four officers is not a panacea by any stretch, but it will help," Diaz said.
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.