MERRILLVILLE | Police Chief Joseph Petruch said he would be happy with any support his department could receive from funds collected through the town's new residential rental registration fee.
Merrillville currently has 48 officers. Petruch said the officers are "basically only responding to calls" because the call volume is high in town and the department is short-staffed.
Merrillville could take a more proactive approach to reducing crime in town if more officers were added, Petruch said.
In July, the Town Council adopted an ordinance requiring landlords to register their residential rental units in town and pay an annual $100 registration fee for each unit. The ordinance also establishes procedure for the town to inspect rental units if Merrillville receives complaints about them.
Funds collected from the fee will be used to administer the ordinance and hire more police officers, Clerk-Treasurer Eugene Guernsey said.
Guernsey said the town has collected more than $250,000 from the fee. He said the amount could change because some larger apartment complexes were allowed to pay the fee in two payments.
He said the second payment from those complexes was due by Saturday.
Guernsey said town officials are expected to have a workshop this month to discuss the amount generated, how many police officers Merrillville could hire and when the hiring would occur.
Petruch said he would be happy if he could bring the police force up to 50 officers, but "whatever (the Town Council) can give would be good."
He said it would be ideal if the department had 72 officers, but he doesn't think Merrillville would ever reach that mark.
Petruch said the council is "taking a step in the right direction" by adopting the rental registration ordinance to increase funding for the Police Department.
"They're doing everything they can to generate revenue," Petruch said.