Government budget woes are hitting criminal justice agencies hard, the New York Times says. In Portland, Oreg., where police funding is down, 10 percent in three years, Station houses close at night, and the 960-member force is down 64 officers. With no money for overtime, undercover drug officers sometimes simply stop what they are doing when their shifts end. Suspects who cannot afford a lawyer are set free. Crime is rising, and some predict that it will go up further as criminals realize their chances of being caught are down.
Seattle reduced its police force by 24 officers and 50 civilians this year and put a freeze on the hiring and training of new officers. In Minneapolis, police chief Robert K. Olson, has cut 118 officers from his 900-member force this year because much of the money for the city’s police comes from the state, which is running a budget deficit. In San Diego, Police Chief John Welter said he expected to be 100 officers short by next spring, calling it “the worst situation I’ve faced in 34 years on the job.”
The war on terrorism is depleting law enforcement resources. Olson in Minneapolis had to assign 16 officers to guard the city’s waterworks against a terrorism threat, with no federal money as compensation. Portland has spent more than $2 million guarding bridges on the Columbia and Willamette Rivers.
Many of the strategies devised in the 1990’s to reduce crime are now being abandoned or cut back because of the national economic slump and widespread budget cuts.
In New York City, which is facing an estimated $3.8 billion deficit, the Police Department’s $3.2 billion budget has been cut by $250 million in recent months. In the past three years, the department has shrunk by more than 4,000 officers to a force of about 36,500. At the same time, the city has reassigned about 1,000 officers to counterterrorism duties, at a cost of roughly $150 million a year. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has credited a new program in helping to keep crime rates down. Operation Impact has narrowly focused his more-limited resources on dozens of areas that have consistently been the scene of violent crimes and shootings.