Baltimore’s deadliest month of 2008 coincided with substantial reductions to the Police Department’s overtime budget, says the Baltimore Sun. The police union president says the cuts are interfering with investigations and diminishing neighborhood patrols. Prompted by a directive from Mayor Sheila Dixon to cut more than $21 million this year amid the worsening economy, the department spent $800,000 less for overtime in November than in the same month the previous year, says former homicide Detective Robert Cherry, union president. The month saw 31 homicides, the worst November in nine years. The trend has continued, with six killings in the first six days of this month.
“Detectives are being told, you can’t finish working a case, you have to go home. We can’t put foot men in a certain area, it will cost overtime. And district commanders are being beaten down if they spend over,” Cherry said. “You’re lying to the public if you say we’re attacking all forms of crime, and you’re lying if you say the budget cuts have no effect.” Across the country, police departments are facing budget cuts as cities and states struggle with declining revenues. Chicago plans to reduce hiring by half in an effort to save $10 million. Massachusetts State Police cut overtime and delayed hiring. Police in Phoenix, San Diego, and Portland, Or., are experiencing major reductions. Baltimore’s Cherry said the numbers tell only part of the story. “Tell that to the old lady who sees more gangs in her neighborhood or to my neighbor who had a burglary attempt on his house,” the union president said.