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Most commission candidates favor increasing police force

Most of the seven candidates running for City Commission seats say they want more Clearwater police officers. Commission candidate Lee Savage made the most specific proposal during a candidate forum Thursday sponsored by the Coalition of Clearwater Homeowners Association. He said the city should hire 10 additional police officers per year for three years.

Savage claimed the officers could be hired without increasing taxes by using additional volunteers in the Police Department, by seeking additional grants and by using confiscated drug money.

Savage's opponents Sue Berfield, Frank Mason and Robert E. Wright also said they support hiring more officers. "There is no doubt in my mind, we are understaffed," Berfield said.

Jay F. Keyes, the other candidate for that City Commission seat, said he supports the new countywide drug task force as a way of fighting crime. He also said the way to solve crime is through increased involvement from neighborhoods, schools and churches.

Among mayoral candidates, incumbent Rita Garvey pointed out that she voted to increase the number of police officers by 20 this year. However, only 10 were added because just two commissioners _ Lee Regulski and Garvey _ supported the higher figure.

Commissioner Don Winner, who is challenging Garvey for the mayor's seat, said he was a strong backer of the countywide drug task force and had urged officials to establish it.

On other issues, Winner compared his leadership as chairman of the Pinellas Planning Council to Garvey's tenure as chairperson of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority's board. Both are countywide boards.

Winner said state legislators have praised him but criticized the PSTA. Garvey said afterward that Winner was uninformed about the PSTA and said it was not a city issue in the first place.

In the March 13 election, voters will select a mayor and a city commissioner.