Belmont, San Carlos team up to cut costs

After joining forces with the Belmont Fire Department and Menlo Park police dispatchers, the city’s top cops are hoping to save money by sharing evidence space, sergeants and police dogs with Belmont.

San Carlos has a long-standing structural deficit of roughly $2 million per year and has been looking at ways to cut expenses. At the same time, the Police Department is running out of room in its evidence and property storage areas and has some staffing shortages that could make cooperating with Belmont make sense, according to Cmdr. Rich Cinfio.

Police Chief Greg Rothaus will brainstorm a number of ideas to the San Carlos City Council on Monday, including allowing Belmont to handle property and evidence, sharing an on-duty sergeant and even letting police dogs sniff out crime in both cities — ideas that could save anywhere from $27,000 to $75,000 per year.

The cities are adjacent to each other, making it possible to have one sergeant supervise five officers across both cities, according to Rothaus. Likewise, each department’s crime dogs, both of which work nights, could be given staggered shifts.

“Just being able to have a dog on duty makes a huge difference,” Belmont police Capt. Ed Wood. “It’s easier to send in a dog to search a warehouse than to send three officers, and they reduce physical confrontations [between suspects and officers].”

Belmont recently built a property room, while San Carlos’ evidence storage area is shrinking. Crime-related evidence, from beer cans to weapons, as well as lost and stolen property, must be handled carefully, according to Cinfio, and during audits, San Carlos has received high marks for the storage of hundreds of pieces of evidence.

“We want to sustain that,” Cinfio said.

San Carlos’ public-safety collaborations have had their share of problems. Budget conflicts nearly ended its joint fire department with Belmont in 2006. Meanwhile, of the four San Carlos dispatchers who joined the Menlo Park team, three have gone to positions in other cities and the fourth didn’t pass the required training, according to Menlo Park Police Dispatch Supervisor Jan Lanier.

Despite those staffing shortages, joining forces was not a mistake. “We’d be hard pressed to give [San Carlos police] back,” Lanier said. “They’ve become part of our family.”

The San Calos City Council meets Monday at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 600 Elm St.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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