Jul 06, 2011 9:32 PM GMT
Another instance of the state successfully passing the buck to local authorities.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304231204576405763808298714.html?mod=WSJ_WSJ_US_News_5ALTO, Texas—People here are bracing for a spike in crime after the city put its police force on furlough.
Budget woes in Alto, Texas have forced drastic measures, including laying off the five-member police force. A newspaper's antique printing press is being moved to a museum for safe keeping. WSJ's Ana Campoy reports.
"Everybody's talking about 'bolt your doors, buy a gun,' " said Monty Collins, Alto's mayor, who was against the measure.
City Council members sent the police home when they decided they couldn't afford them. On June 15, the police chief and his four officers secured the evidence room, changed the passwords on their computers and locked the department's doors for six months—longer if local finances don't improve by then.
The closure of small-town police forces is part of a broader consolidation of services in communities across the U.S. Keeping the peace is rarely a revenue-making operation and is easier to outsource to county or state agencies than responsibilities such as utilities, some officials say. Others see advantages in having a bigger, more professional force patrol their communities.
"We had to do something drastic," said Jerry Flowers, councilman and hay farmer. "The police department, being a non-money-making entity, was the easiest to get rid of while we catch our breath and build up some cash."
Some in town, including Police Chief Charles Barron, say the city should have cut elsewhere, given local crime. Last year in Alto, where the per-capita crime rate exceeds the statewide level, there were 39 larcenies, 23 burglaries, two assaults, one robbery and one auto theft, or 66 crimes, compared to 51 the year before, though that year included a rape and four aggravated assaults.