Police chiefs across the country worry that the recession and budget cuts may allow the downturn in crime to be reversed, reports the Washington Post. In Sacramento, beset by California’s financial woes, homicides are up 43 percent this year, assaults on police are up 13 percent, and Chief Rick Braziel said he had to eliminate his vice unit. In Phoenix, Chief Jack Harris said he does not have the funds to fill more than 10 percent of his officer jobs and knows he will not be filling any vacancies for another three years.
In Washington on Thursday, more than 100 police chiefs and law enforcement experts are gathering to discuss whether the economic downturn is fundamentally changing the way police departments do their jobs. The gathering is sponsored by the D.C.-based Police Executive Research Forum. “For the longest time,” said Chuck Wexler, the forum’s executive director, “people thought that the police didn’t matter, didn’t affect the crime rate. Now we’ve seen that’s not true.” The tactics that reduced crime, such as placing officers in schools, targeting high-crime areas and focusing on particular crimes, “are now being eroded, across the country,” Wexler said.