Budget Cuts Curtail Response to Lesser Crimes

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Posted: Wednesday, August 25, 2010

USA Today

Budget cuts are forcing police around the country to stop responding to fraud, burglary and theft calls as officers focus limited resources on violent crime.

Cutbacks in such places as Oakland, Tulsa and Norton, Mass., have forced police to tell residents to file their own reports -- online or in writing -- for break-ins and other lesser crimes.

"If you come home to find your house burglarized and you call, we're not coming,'' said Oakland Police spokeswoman Holly Joshi. The city laid off 80 officers from its force of 687 last month, and the department can't respond to burglary, vandalism or identity theft. "It's amazing. It's a big change for us.''

Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation's largest police union, said cutbacks are preventing many police agencies from responding to property crimes. "The chiefs are putting the best face on this they can," Pasco said. "But think of this: That next property crime could involve a junkie who killed someone the night before."

In Tulsa, which lost 110 officers to layoffs and retirements, the 739-officer department isn't sending cops to the scenes of larceny, fraud or car theft.

Tulsa police spokesman Jason Willingham says some residents have said they won't bother to report those crimes anymore. "They think nothing is going to be done, so why mess with it," he said.

In the Boston suburb of Norton, police told residents there may be delays or no response at all to some calls, including vandalism. The department posted the new policy on its website.

"We wanted to let people know about this," Norton Police Chief Brian Clark said. "We didn't want people to be surprised."

Bernard Melekian, director of the Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, said the actions are a reflection of the hard economic times across the country.