Many police departments told USA Today they have been forced to abandon community-oriented policing to control flare-ups in crime. Community policing, which increases the law enforcement presence across all neighborhoods, was credited with contributing to a decade-long decline in violent crime. Now, police leaders say officer shortages and sudden crime surges have forced agencies to resort to triage responses in crime “hot spots.” In September, the FBI reported violent crime up in 2006 for the second straight year.
“The resources that were used to create vibrant communities have totally evaporated,” says Arturo Venegas, public safety director in Camden, N.J. “It’s easier to get money to build up the infrastructure of Baghdad than it is to get help for Camden, N.J.” In Cleveland, Lt. Thomas Stacho says his department has not recovered from the 2004 layoffs of 250 officers. Others don’t believe departments are being forced to abandon community policing. “Hogwash,” says David Muhlhausen of the conservative Heritage Foundation. A critic of community policing, he says police chiefs are trying to “shake down” the government for more money.