EAST CHICAGO | The City Council on Monday unanimously approved the transfer of appropriations in the amount of $150,000 to pay for overtime in the Police Department.
Police Chief Mark Becker said the funds would be used specifically for a program he has named the STOP Team.
"It is a team that will be comprised of those officers on the department that have exhibited a good amount of proficiency, energy and willingness to go above and beyond in their job," Becker said.
The main goal of the team is to enhance public safety, Becker said.
"But specifically that will mean building those bridges with the community," he said. "Coming out there and walking the streets, knocking on doors, getting to know the neighborhoods, getting to know the business communities."
First District Councilman Adrian Santos told Becker he wanted to make certain the funds would be used solely for the STOP Team program.
"After speaking with the city controller, she made mention that once we approved this, then you as chief can go in and move this money around however that you wanted to," Santos said. "I want to make sure that this $150,000 goes straight to overtime."
Becker said he is in agreement with Santos and has requested a specific account be established for the funds.
Santos suggested Becker work in conjunction with City Council members to identify hot spots for crime where the STOP Team can concentrate.
Becker said providing for the overtime will allow police to make more traffic stops. He said one of the duties of the STOP Team will be to develop additional Neighborhood Watch groups.
"Not only developing them, but then putting them in touch with each other so that we have a communication tree, if you will," Becker said.
Fifth District Councilman Rosendo Cuevas inquired about the pay officers would receive in the program.
Becker said the average overtime rate would be $38 an hour.
In other city news, the City Council observed a moment of silence at the start of Monday's meeting for Times Correspondent Steve Zabroski, who died March 17.
Zabroski covered East Chicago for many years. Santos recalled Zabroski faithfully attending various city meetings.
"Whether some of us liked some of the things he put in the newspaper, Steve kept it real," Santos said.