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Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender makes room for RCPD’s role in helping the homeless in 2022 budget plan

Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 5:51 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - In a meeting on Monday, Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender shared his proposal for the 2022 Rapid City budget.

The proposal saw increases in spending in a few areas. One of them, public safety. Where Mayor Allender is hoping to correct what he believes is an issue with the police department’s role in handling the growing homeless population.

“Some would say the homeless situation in Rapid City has gotten out of control,” says Allender.

65-percent of calls for service through the police department have to do with homelessness.

“Police are not the ideal organization to deal with the homeless. Not all homeless commit crimes,” says Allender.

The mayor says it’s time for a change.

“Moving forward with the same exact approach for eternity is not sustainable. The roadblock we face is alcohol and drug addiction. As well as mental health,” says Allender.

These roadblocks aren’t an area of expertise for police, yet make up a majority of their calls, and they wind up simply transporting repeat offenders to and from jail, “providing very short term solutions,” says Allender.

He says it leads to data that indicates that Rapid City Police are 70-percent more overworked than surrounding police in the area, or perhaps the nation. 20 officers left the station last year, and 15 this year.

“More will leave, out of fear of not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” says Allender.

Plus, it doesn’t do good for anyone involved; the culprits, the police or the taxpayer who pays for those cogs to turn.

“Currently, between our police and fire budgets we estimate that we’re spending about 15 million dollars a year helping no one. There’s got to be a better way to do this. To get the Police resources back on crime,” says Allender.

He says that 70 years ago people would be filling up rooms in an asylum, but nowadays... it’s time to adjust and make a change.

“I’m not talking about free food and free lodging and that kind of thing. I’m talking about finding those in the homeless population that can be helped. That will accept treatment,” Allender says, “and then bringing them out of that situation and back into the main stream.”

In the 2022 Rapid City Budget, Mayor Allender is looking to add a full time position that handles outreach to the homeless population, and staff members that take homelessness and addiction related calls.

“They will work with the Rapid City Quality of Life Unit who will train them. That does represent a growth in the budget for public safety. But,” Allender says, “also answering the call of one of the most prominent concerns of citizens which is crime and homelessness.”

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