OAKLAND — Mayor Ron Dellums moved Tuesday to loosen restrictions on the Police Department's use of overtime pay as officials hope to keep the city safer during the holiday season.

Oakland normally sees an increase in crime this time of year, officials said, and Dellums' decision came in the wake of a brutal attack on an 80-year-old woman last week and three homicides in the past five days.

The mayor agreed to allow additional overtime pay for certain policing efforts, including special enforcement operations, additional patrols to respond to specific crime trends, and increased investigations. A directive he issued said: "Under no circumstances "... can the overtime limits set for the Police Department be seen as an impediment to keeping our city safe."

With the city facing a financial crisis, the department came under fire earlier this year after busting its overtime budget repeatedly in recent years. In 2007-08, $13.7 million in general fund money was budgeted for police overtime, but expenditures totaled $25 million, according to police data.

During budget hearings, officials stressed the need for the department to stick to an overtime budget of about $16 million this year. Dellums placed strict limits on overtime expenditures Oct. 16.

Since then, the department has taken a number of steps to reduce its spending. For example, when patrol officers call in sick, are on vacation or are going through training, the department no longer uses overtime pay to fill their shifts.

In tough budget times, the department must do its part, said City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente (Glenview-Fruitvale).

"I think the police and the police chief have the responsibility to manage overtime, and they have the responsibility to respond to crime and to police the city," he said. "It's as simple as that."

Police have been spending about $400,000 less per pay period on overtime since Oct. 16, the mayor's office said. That pencils out to a spending reduction of about $10 million a year. It was not immediately clear how much more the department might spend now that Dellums has loosened the rules.

Assistant Police Chief Howard Jordan said he will be meeting with deputy chiefs Jeff Israel and David Kozicki to discuss when it is appropriate to use additional resources.

"It gives us a little more latitude," Jordan said, adding, "We know the city is in a fiscal crisis. We understand that, and we have to do our part and be responsible in terms of managing our resources and managing our overtime."

The beating of the 80-year-old woman, who was upgraded to critical but stable condition over the weekend, shocked even longtime residents who have grappled with Oakland's crime problem for years.

Geoff Collins, a former member of the Community Policing Advisory Board, spoke with Dellums on Monday, urging him to lift some of the overtime restrictions.

"We understand that we are in a difficult time economically," he said. "This is a measured approach, and we definitely agree with the mayor. We believe he has acted responsibly."

Reach Kelly Rayburn at 510-208-6435.