Sacramento police chief says arena would make downtown safer

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 4B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012 - 8:22 am

Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel said Tuesday a downtown arena could help boost the police budget and make downtown safer.

"It absolutely does create an economic engine for us," Braziel said at a press event organized by Mayor Kevin Johnson's Think Big Sacramento task force. "You bring customers into the city ... you increase the tax base which is the (city budget's) general fund. Police and fire are major (parts) of the general fund."

Braziel joined Regional Transit official Mark Lonergan and Downtown Sacramento Partnership head Michael Ault in saying more people and events downtown will make the area feel safer.

"You dilute the (negative) social aspects of the urban core," Ault said. "It's as much about perception as anything."

The brief public safety discussion, held at the downtown library, was one in a series of presentations sponsored by associates of the mayor, who is pushing to build a city-owned entertainment and sports complex in the downtown railyard.

The police chief said, however, he is not endorsing the mayor's still-evolving financing plan for an arena.

"At the appropriate time, when I am asked by council, I will weigh in on the particulars of a plan," Braziel said.

The mayor and city officials are exploring financing the arena in part by leasing city garages and downtown parking meter services to a private operator in exchange for a several hundred million dollar upfront fee. That plan must win City Council approval.

The city also is negotiating with the Sacramento Kings, who would be the main tenant, and other private partners for financial contributions.

If an arena is built downtown, Braziel said, he'd insist the operator hire off-duty police officers to patrol during events. Sheriff's deputies provide event security at the current arena in Natomas.

Braziel said he could then spread those officers out after events as event-goers filter to restaurants and parking. Braziel said his department would want a say in how the arena area is designed to help manage crowds.

Regional Transit official Lonergan said his agency expects to increase late-night light-rail trains in the next year, as its budget improves. The agency is building a line through the railyard, and plans a station at or near an arena entrance.

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