As the city of Santa Maria anticipates an increase in crime, their top priority for their 2022-2024 budget focused on improvements to public safety.
"The increase to the police department is a total of 17.7%." said city public information manager, Mark van de Kamp.
He tells KSBY that the approved budget for the Santa Maria Police Department is one of the largest increases the city has been able to allocate in many years.
Those increases will be used to hire additional non-sworn in employees, to allow officers to be more physically connected with the communities they serve.
The implementation of other technological improvements is expected as well.
"One of the more significant purchases is going to be body cams, and that is something we just consider best practice," said Santa Maria Police Chief Marc Schneider.
He says his department's officers currently have vehicle cameras installed in their patrol cars, but that the new investment in body cameras will help increase transparency and accountability.
"These body cams will allow us to record our interaction with the community and to ensure our community that we are doing a good job. Our staff does a phenomenal job and I think it will be well received by the community and our officers." Chief Schneider continued.
Meantime, in regard to the projected increase in local crimes, Chief Schneider says there are additional factors to consider.
"As we increase the number of officers in the department, we now have a jail in Santa Maria, the population is growing. So all of those things add to the expectation and projection that things will increase as far as the level of crimes and arrests being made within the city," he admitted.
Among other new additions coming to the Santa Maria Police Department are a new cadet program, enhancements to their crime lab, and updated training opportunities for their staff.
The department expects they will begin testing different vendors for body cameras within the next few months. Chief Schneider says he hopes they will begin being used in duty around the start of next year.