Budget cuts have hit many municipalities hard the past few years, but administrators in Oakland, CA have taken reductions to a whole new level. By threatening to cut about 10% of the police force, the Oakland City Council has put the city in a precarious position...at least according to the Police Chief, Anthony Batts.
Batts has listed 44 situations that the police department will no longer respond to, a list which includes grand theft, burglary and vehicle collisions. Batts claims that this is because there will not be enough boots on the street to handle such situations. Victims will instead be responsible for reporting crimes through an internet-based system.
Hopefully this is merely a negotiation tool, because Oakland will soon look more a frontier town than a metropolitan area with three major sports teams otherwise. If not, perhaps a simple cost/benefit analysis would help the Council to look elsewhere for cuts. This is because logically, a lack of response will stimulate an increase in crime, and increases in crime have costs of their own.
Avoiding increases in the three situations mentioned above alone would provide enough reason to avoid cutting headcount. For example, when theft and burglary rates increase, citizens leave the area, reducing property taxes both immediately and in the future when properties are revalued down. Those citizens are also no longer in the neighborhood spending money at grocery stores and other businesses. They are also unavailable to staff those same businesses. Auto collisions provide another easy to follow example. If police don't respond to collisions, people are more likely to leave the scene, whether with malice or in a state of shock. Insurance rates will climb, leading to another reason to leave the area and creating the same problems noted above.
It will soon become apparent that any costs saved by cutting headcount are more than lost by the resulting increases in crime. Therefore, let's join the citizens of Oakland (at least the law-abiding among them) in hoping that the 'list of 44' is merely a bargaining chip. Otherwise, a tough town is about to get a lot tougher...