If Maryland lawmakers cut spending on public safety to help close an estimated $1.9 billion shortfall, history suggests that even small cuts could have a big impact, says the Washington Post. In 2000, the legislature eliminated most funding for a small program to help counties curb car thefts so it could help pay for a package of transportation projects, said Ray Presley of the Maryland Vehicle Theft Prevention Council. Without the $2 million in aid to increase public awareness, ease information sharing among authorities and help pay salaries for extra prosecutors, he said, car thefts rose by almost 4,700, or 16 percent, the next year.
As Gov. Martin O’Malley looks for ways to make up the shortfall, police agencies hope that aid for law enforcement is spared. After the 2000 cutback, car thefts statewide continued to rise, peaking at 36,406 in 2003. O’Malley boosted funding for the program to $2.5 million in 2005. In 2007, car thefts in the state fell below 30,000. With the help of the grant money and stepped-up local efforts, the car theft drop in Prince George’s County, adjoining Washington, D.C., has been precipitous, from 15,188 in 2005 to 8,673 last year. “There’s always a concern in this kind of economic environment when lawmakers are looking for cuts,” said Joseph Asplen of the Maryland/DC Anti Car Theft Committee. “There have been some reductions in car thefts, and that could make us a target, but if lawmakers subscribe to our way of thinking, the reason you’ve seen the reductions is because you’ve committed the resources.”