An increase in response times has led San Ramon Police Chief Scott Holder to ask City Council to add four more officers.
"I really think we need to push to six beats," Holder told City Council on Tuesday night. "Six beats puts two officers in Dougherty Valley."
Holder's plan calls for two lateral transfers from other departments and two police academy graduates.
"I think we need to be hiring young, fresh out of college, fresh out of the academy youngsters," he said, adding, "Our department's not getting any younger."
Currently, the department uses five beats, breaking the city into sections based largely on population, and four beats on less busy times. But Holder said a number of factors, including geography, traffic, increases in auto thefts and home burglaries and officer safety have increased the need to have more officers on the street.
Holder also wants to add two part-time police services technicians -- non-sworn officers -- on an hourly basis to help patrol parks and assist regular officers with time-consuming tasks such as vehicle tows.
City Council members generally like the idea, but were hesitant to commit to Holder's plan, saying they'd like more information on how much it would cost.
"I would like to see the cost analysis," Councilman Scott Perkins told Holder.
Both Councilman Jim Livingstone and Mayor Bill Clarkson described public safety as "job one."
While everyone on the council agreed with that sentiment, they also said more spending on police means cutting somewhere else. Holder's plan is headed next to the finance committee.
Last year, the police department spent $783,000 on overtime, and Holder said that's likely to increase this year. Some of that could be cut by adding new officers, but Councilman Phil O'Loane estimated the amount of overtime paid in the 2012-13 fiscal year amounts to about 5 percent of the department's overall budget, something he called "not an outrageous number."
Response times currently average about six minutes and 43 seconds, up from the 2012 time of four minutes and 47 seconds. Holder said that's because of the distances officers have to travel and the increased traffic around San Ramon.
The city's general plan calls for a response time of three to five minutes, but in some instances, it took an officer closer to 10 minutes to arrive at a call.
Holder pointed out that the city currently has 58 officers for a population of 76,154. That's just two more than in 2007, when the city had 56 officers for a population that was estimated at just over 58,000.
San Ramon is at the low end of serious crimes compared to other cities in the area, averaging about 13 for every 1,000 residents, compared to nearly 30 per 1,000 in Livermore and almost 33 per 1,000 in Walnut Creek.
Holder said, however, that some crimes have spiked in 2013. That includes auto thefts, which have gone from 21 in the first six months of 2012 to 44 in the first half of 2013, an increase of 110 percent. The police chief noted that other cities have seen similar increases in auto thefts.
Residential burglaries have gone from 38 from January to June 2012 to 52 for the same period in 2013, an increase of 37 percent.
"To deter residential burglaries, you have to be on the street," Holder said.