Gilroy Police stepping up downtown summer patrols

TOP COP At 6 feet 8 inches tall, new Police Chief Scot Smithee is one of the few people who get to look down on his equine officers. Smithee retired from Gilroy Police and now returns to the department’s top $185,000 a year slot. He had been serving tempo

The Gilroy Police department will spend $32,000 next summer to keep two officers patrolling downtown Friday and Saturday nights from 6pm to 10pm after the reported success of a pilot program this year.

Saying that keeping the downtown safe is a priority, the City Council voted unanimously Monday to extend the program from May 5 to Sept. 2 next year, except for the weekend of the Gilroy Garlic Festival in late July.

“It’s been really great for downtown,” said Downtown Association chairman Gary Walton whose organization puts on the Fifth Street Live programs on Friday evenings that attract thousands of people downtown. “It’s always great to have police officers out on horses, on motorcycles and on bikes. It really builds a connection with the community. Having officers there in uniform really makes a difference.”

Walton said the perception that downtown appears safe for nighttime activities will help bring more people to the new restaurants and bars opening there.

The police department had budgeted $30,000 for the patrols, but went over by $1,250 because higher ranking officers worked downtown and earned more money than patrolmen, Chief Scot Smithee told the council.

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