No safety in numbers

Published 2:31 pm Friday, March 30, 2012

Two bikes are stolen off a front porch in historic downtown. A would-be thief caught red-handed trying to break into a car, confronted by the car’s owner. A break-in, theft and minor destruction at one of Washington’s favorite hangouts, Backwater Jack’s, a place that had already born its fair share of destruction during Hurricane Irene.

This is just a small sample of crime that has taken place in Washington over the past two weeks.

Does this mean crime is on the rise in the area? Likely not. Nationwide, crime statistics have actually decreased since the onset of 2008’s recession. There’s hot debate over the reasons behind the statistics. Many experts believe the numbers merely reflect a continuation of crime rates dropping steadily over the past two decades. Many believe the greater number of people being incarcerated for their crimes during that time period has affected the drop.

But what happens when patrol officers here are taken off the street? What happens when the number of detectives available to investigate crimes is slashed? For certain it will change and complicate how police services are provided, but does that mean there will be more opportunity for crimes to be committed and less chance those committing crimes will be caught?

It remains to be seen. And it may be seen, because in the city’s reorganization plan proposed to the Washington City Council, several patrol officers and three detectives will be cut from the Washington Police Department over the next three years. Several jobs within the fire department will be cut, as well.

It’s said there’s safety in numbers. But no one’s ever said there’s safety in crunched numbers.

Let’s hope the city of Washington can strike a proper balance between fiscal diligence and its ability to serve and protect the community.