The Downtown Safety Initiative will enjoy the same level of funding in Mayor Dave Cieslewicz’s recently proposed 2010 operating budget, and it will continue to allow for increased police presence in Downtown Madison on the weekends.

The program allows for an effective use of police funds to patrol the downtown area during weekends and other times of crowding, such as during special events, according to Cieslewicz assistant Joel Plant.

According to the 2010 executive operating budget, the amount of funding for the program will remain the same as the previous year, totaling $100,000. However, there is one difference: $20,000 will come from private contributions, such as businesses in the affected area.

Plant said the city will follow other cities’ models for the private contributions, adding there is much precedent in other cities for businesses to help out with the funds for policing areas of interest to the businesses and other stakeholders.

In a breakdown of the total $100,000, Plant explained what aspects of policing the funds will be directed toward. According to Plant, $20,000 will be reserved for the mounted patrol during high-volume situations such as weekends and football games. The remaining $80,000 will be directed to overtime pay for officers patrolling at priority times.

“We’ve recognized the use of overtime funds is a very effective way to police the area,” Plant said, adding it is also the most cost-effective way to marshal police resources.

Plant said it is more efficient to allow officers to take overtime pay to police the downtown area on the weekends and high-volume times. In lieu of having extra officers hired working 40 hours a week to cover about 10 hours of high-priority police times, current officers can take the overtime and help patrol the area.

Ald. Bryon Eagon, District 8, said the program allows for added police resources in the downtown area when there are problems.

“I think it is encouraging to see the mayor investing into the safety of the downtown,” Eagon said.

Plant said the program began in 2007 to address a rash of crime that was occurring in the downtown area.

Eagon said he is hopeful the city is focusing fewer police resources on bars and issues with underage drinking, hoping to instead have the police focus on crimes such as burglaries and robberies.

“From my understanding, the first time it was authorized, there were assurances [DSI officers] would not be used for routine bar checks,” Eagon said, adding he has heard conflicting reports since that time.

Eagon added he is encouraged by the proposal to have a citizen designated as an alcohol establishment checker. He said he thinks the civilian checker saves money and resources by not wasting police time and energy by having them check fire escapes and the conditions of the licenses.

[The citizen alcohol checker] would be a smart transition,” Eagon said.