The sales tax increase approved by Lawrence voters last year to help hire additional law enforcement personnel may be an investment that's coming just in time.
According to Kansas Bureau of Investigation figures released last week, serious crime in Lawrence grew by 28.9 percent from 1989 to 1990. Included in the category of serious crimes are burglary, theft, murder, rape, robbery and assault. Lawrence Police Chief Ron Olin says that figure is slightly misleading and that department statistics show an increase of only 19.4 percent in serious crimes in 1990. Either way, the increase is large and the trend is disturbing.
Last August, voters approved a half-cent increase in the city's sales tax to finance the hiring of 27 new police officers and nine new firefighters. Many voters who favored the tax increase may have thought the new officers were needed to beef up enforcement of traffic regulations or the noise ordinance. But the most recent statistics seem to indicate that the additional officers will have their hands full just protecting Lawrence residents from an increasing amount of more serious crime. Some of the new police officers currently are being trained, but none of them has been put on duty.
Lawrence apparently is feeling some of the less-positive effects of being a growing community sandwiched between two larger metropolitan areas. Hopefully, the upcoming additions to the local police force will help stem the tide of increasing crime that seems to be sweeping not only Lawrence but much of the country.