Police in metropolitcan Atlanta and nationwide are reexamining priorities as they grapple with layoffs, hiring freezes, furloughs, and a wave of early retirements, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Some departments have been forced to close specialized units that were devoted to community outreach and crime prevention. Departments that keep such units often do so with skeleton crews while working to fill vacancies department-wide.
Some departments facing such cuts feel they have little choice but to cancel community policing programs like code enforcement, neighborhood crime prevention programs, and park patrols. Such programs are an outgrowth of a popular philosophy in law enforcement known as the Broken Windows theory, says Robert Friedmann, a professor of criminal justice at Georgia State University. The thinking behind Broken Windows is that ignoring eyesores like graffiti and abandoned cars will drive good people out of their communities and invite criminals in. The recession has forced local governments to reexamine which services are a necessity and which are a luxury. When times get tough, proactive policing often is taking a back seat. “It is a trend and it’s not just common to the larger departments,” said Frank Rotondo of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police. “It has particularly hit Georgia hard.”