FORT WORTH — Community crime fighting got a big boost Thursday when the Fort Worth Crime Control and Prevention District approved a 45 percent budget increase for the volunteer Code Blue program.The board, made up of Fort Worth City Council members, increased the Code Blue budget from $722,397 in fiscal year 2014 to $1.04 million in fiscal 2015.“We intentionally did that because we value our Code Blue partners. We know that they put additional eyes and ears on the street, and we want to continue to increase that,” said Mayor Betsy Price. On the whole, the balanced $62.1 million budget is similar to fiscal year 2014. The total budget will decrease 10 percent from last year, or $7.1 million. The decrease is due in part to completed projects, such as the police heliport that was valued at $4.2 million in 2013 and $5.2 million in 2014, and expenditures that were initially budgeted for fiscal year 2013, but paid from fiscal year 2014, Shallah Graham, assistant director of the Fort Worth Police Department, said. For Code Blue, the additional money will pay for seven dispatchers who will work specifically with the 700 active Citizens on Patrol volunteers who patrol their neighborhoods on foot and in cars, reporting suspicious activity to the police. The money will also be used for advertising and recruitment, magnet car signs, uniforms and training.Code Blue is one of the reasons Fort Worth’s crime rate has dropped more than 40 percent since 1995, Police Chief Jeff Halstead has said.On May 10, 84.65 percent of Fort Worth voters reauthorized for five years a half-cent sales tax for the crime control district. Before the election, Halstead said he wanted to reinvest in Code Blue, which has had a drop in volunteers.Some Code Blue members had complained when the council took over as the district’s board in 2010. After a group of Code Blue captains demanded that the council change how the district is run, the city created a Code Blue advisory committee. The new crime district budget also includes a 70 percent increase in police officer safety equipment, which is being used to purchase the new video cameras that police officers will wear, and a 10 percent increase for the gang graffiti abatement program. Although several other areas of the budget were also increased — such as the special events overtime detail, neighborhood patrol officers and patrol support — much of the increase is due to pay raises, Graham said.The CCPD fund balance is projected to be at $22.9 million by September 2015, which is $850,000 below the fund balance reserve goals. However, the board dipped into the fund to cover the new weapons range for the Public Safety Training Center and is still recouping that money. “It provides much needed services, keeping the focus on neighborhood policing, safety and providing our officers with what they need,” Price said.
Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984 Twitter: @catyhirst