LPD's Community Action Team among budget cut discussions

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) -- Budget cuts are a hot topic in Lynchburg now that the city manager has suggested eliminating positions to save money.

One idea that's on the table would involve doing away with a specialized crime fighting unit at the police department.

The Community Action Team (CAT) launched two years ago as a new way for the Lynchburg Police Department to fight crime while building relationships. "It's very important. The CAT team is so intricate in what we do on a daily basis," said Chief Raul Diaz with the Lynchburg Police Department.

The team consists of seven officers and two civilians.

They spend time working directly with people in the community, building trust between police and the public - something most officers on field patrol don't have time to do. "They typically don't have time to sit down, analyze a problem, and kinda try to work through a solution that may be long term as opposed to a short term solution," said Chief Diaz. "Well, CATs given the opportunity to do that."

Lynchburg City Manager Bonnie Svrcek may propose cutting the team, after taking suggestions from Chief Diaz on positions he can afford to lose.

She says the city budget needs to shrink by at least two percent after seeing a drop in sales tax revenues.

To fund everything for fiscal year 2019, the city needs to reduce expenses or increase revenue by $3 million.

Every city department, from public works to the police, were asked to submit cuts.

If the CAT Team goes, Diaz says neighborhoods will still be patrolled regularly, but efforts to build trust may suffer. "To lose the CAT team would significantly cause us some issues down the road, especially in the area of building community," said Diaz.

Svrcek will formally propose budget cuts to city council next month.

She says her proposal will likely consist of cuts submitted by several departments.