Five years ago, Lawrence, Ma., police touted a steady drop in crime and an 18-month period with no homicides — a startling statistic for a city that in the 1990s had been considered one of the state's most dangerous. Officials credited community policing initiatives and sophisticated gang intelligence for the decline. Today, reports the Boston Globe, the antigang unit and other specialized squads no longer exist, the victims of cuts imposed last year by Mayor William Lantigua, who confronted a massive budget deficit.
Community policing, a law enforcement philosophy that puts more emphasis on preventing violence than responding to it, is virtually nonexistent. Police officials say they barely have the staff to respond to regular calls. A Globe reporter spent two Friday nights with officers patrolling the city of 77,000. The ride-alongs, and interviews with other officers and top brass, suggest a force that is tense, on edge, and always waiting for the eruption that will overwhelm its diminished numbers. Since the cuts took effect last July, the number of police officers has fallen from 151 to 111, down from a high of 161 in 2009. Ater the cuts were proposed last summer, Police Chief John Romero warned they would be like putting out a welcome map for criminals. Statistics appear to justify his concerns.