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updated: 10/24/2012 3:59 PM

Officer Friendly, crime prevention unit back in Mount Prospect

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Officer Friendly is making a comeback in Mount Prospect.

Police Chief Michael Semkiu announced plans this week to reinstate the department's Crime Prevention Unit, which had been disbanded after a 2010 budget crisis led to a 10 percent cut in the village's workforce.

The unit had overseen programs like public education officers, Neighborhood Watch, neighborhood problem resolution and Officer Friendly.

Semkiu announced the unit's return Tuesday as village trustees began hearing budget presentations from various departments.

The chief said he plans to revive the crime prevention unit by staffing it with one officer, who would perform core duties such as delivering presentations to seniors and parents, dealing with the media and working with staff at the Community Connections Center on the south side of town.

Village Manager Michael Janonis said the addition would not affect the bottom line.

"We're utilizing the fact that we have an officer who has been on extended military leave. And he is actually collecting his military salary because it's higher than his village salary," he said.

Trustee Paul Hoefert expressed concern about what would happen if the officer returned to employment with the village at a time when Mount Prospect might face further economic challenges.

"At that point, we are going to have to look very hard at where we are with staffing across the different sections within that department," said Semkiu, allowing that the position could be cut once again.

Still, Trustee Steven Polit, who had been calling for the resurrection of the unit, said, "I'm happy to get the Officer Friendly whenever we can get him. If we just get him for one or two years and we end up having to make a decision between an Officer Friendly and a community service officer or an officer on the street, I would always choose to keep the officer on the street."

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