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Across the United States, record numbers of law enforcement and public safety employees are being laid off due to budget shortfalls, prompting higher levels of violence in certain cities.
In Oakland, California, one of the nation’s most violent cities, 25 percent of the police force was cut due to a $42 million dollar budget gap. Likewise in Miami, over 100 officers were laid off from the force, with many more to follow in the coming months.
In the crime-plagued city of East St. Louis, leaders approved a measure to reduce the number of officers by 30 percent.
“I want our citizens to know we have some of the bravest police officers and firefighters in the country, but we don’t have the money to pay them,” the city’s Mayor, Alvin Parks told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
In some cities, a reduction in the number of officers means there are certain activities that law enforcement officials will not be able to do. Time-consuming investigations, tedious crime-lab procedures, stake-outs, DWI arrests and quelling mass protests all take time and often many officers. In states such as Michigan, which has only 24 officers per 10,000 people, law enforcement authorities have to prioritize their work, while keeping in mind that they may not have back up officers to assist them should a dangerous situation arise.
Authorities have already witnessed a rise in crime as a result of the cuts and shrinking police force. New York City reduced its force by 4,685 officers so far this year, and plans to cut an additional 3,150 more by 2011. The reduction spurred an increase in violent crime, with homicides up 22 percent, and shootings up 14 percent.
In Manhattan alone, robberies increased by 14 percent and burglaries by 19.8 percent. There has also been a noticeable rise in nearly all other reported crimes, such as rape, prostitution, drug sales and car thefts.
New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg told The New York Times the increase in violent crime is “worrisome.”
“We have fewer police officers on the streets than we did before,” he said.
With federal stimulus and grant money evaporating and limited options, officials expect to see more cuts in government services nationwide.