Just how to increase community safety in Bexley continues to be a topic of debate.

Just how to increase community safety in Bexley continues to be a topic of debate.

Since the city had a budget surplus last year, some have asked why some of those extra funds can't go toward hiring an additional full-time police officer.

Euclaire Avenue resident Don Lewis posed the question directly to Bexley City Council at its Jan. 28 meeting.

Councilman Tim Madison, chairman of the finance committee, said he reads police reports every day and believes the most effective strategy to reduce crime is to have additional officers on patrol.

"It's something we are very interested in and will continue to examine," Madison said.

Mayor Ben Kessler and Police Chief Larry Rinehart, however, are of the opinion that hiring an additional, full-time officer may not be the best option, since the cost could restrict resources in other areas.

Rinehart said he has witnessed staffing and budget problems at other central Ohio police departments.

"The minute there's a downturn in the budget, they couldn't buy cars, they couldn't buy some of the equipment that is critical," Rinehart said. "I'm hesitant to say, 'Yeah, give us more officers,' because that's a gift that keeps on giving and it could just kill us in other areas."

Rather than hire another officer, a better strategy is to continue using software that analyzes crime statistics and other technology to more effectively assign existing staff and resources, Kessler and Rinehart agree.

"This year we're really focusing on training and we're focusing on new technologies to reduce our (crime) numbers," Kessler said.

The city's first homicide since 2009 occurred last month, when Rudolph Edward-Anthony Calmese Jr., 18, died Jan. 24 of gunshot wounds sustained the evening of Jan. 23. Police are still searching for suspects and ask anyone with information to call 614-559-4444.

Despite this recent incident, crime overall has declined since 2012, which can partly be attributed to more effective policing strategies that have been put in place, Kessler said.

"Our goal is to have the safest community in central Ohio," he said. "And we're trying a lot of different things to do that."

If the city eventually determines that additional police officers are needed, hiring part-time staff should be considered, since other local police departments have had success with this option, Rinehart said.

"If we get to the point where we're doing everything we can do and the (crime) statistics still aren't satisfactory," he said, "I'll be the first one to say, 'We really need to talk about how we can increase staffing.' "