I couldn't have said it better myself. So below I am reprinting Charles Pine's latest entry from his website. (www.orpn.org)
Javier's House and the Folly of Police Layoffs
By Greg Hartwig
(Note: Greg Hartwig has put in many years of volunteer service to his neighborhood and the 18Y community policing beat. This is his report on the real Oakland and what public safety is all about.)
I always figured that the time between a call for service and the response provides some guide to the adequacy of police resources. As I arrived home last night, one of my neighbors informed me that the house of our neighbor Javier was broken into. Some animals used a crow bar to pop his security door. Then they completely destroyed his front door along with the locks and latch.
Javier and his wife are in El Salvador because of the death of a member of the immediate family.
I called it in. It was around four hours before there was a response. Actually, we are not sure what happened because we couldn't stay up any longer. The reason for the delay was standard: too many other calls demanding higher priority.
Any chance of finding the perpetrators in the area was lost. While the crime had already been committed, there was still urgency as the mangled front door needed to be secured. I closed it with a piece of duct tape which was still there this morning. The door remains improperly secured. I am not sure what to do.
Fewer Police? You Must Be Kidding
Now imagine a scenario where we have fewer officers. Imagine it is 200 or any reduction. The public safety results should be obvious.
However, I wonder whether our City leadership has considered the long-term economic consequences of a reduction in officers:
•How would you like to have a property rental business in that kind of environment? Any business?
•Do you think that any company concerned about the welfare of its employees would locate in a city that lacks resources to provide the most basic service necessary for public safety?
Oakland already has a bad reputation that has been dragging our economy down. If a layoff happens, this will worsen considerably. I am concerned it could easily take another decade or more for the city to recover. Bad reputations are hard to change.
In the meantime, both people and companies that would increase the tax base will avoid Oakland, while others leave. We will languish in poverty, crime and street mayhem. Our parks and architecturally lovely homes will decay into ruin.
A headline in the San Francisco Chronicle today reads, "Tech firms flocking to S.F." In spite of Oakland's lower cost, more convenient airport access, excellent location and other advantages, nothing that would add to our tax base "flocks" here. Right now, I would settle for businesses just "coming" to Oakland.
We need to make sure we are looking at Police as an essential investment in our economic infrastructure. The first step in economic development is ensuring order and reasonable norms of behavior.
P.S. half a day later: Javier's wife called me from El Salvador. I told her what happened. She is crying her eyes out. I am about to screw their front door shut. These people don't have any money.
City Hall Is Not Kidding
Greg Hartwig's report is one example of what lies behind these statistics:
•According to the FBI, Oakland has the highest violent crime rate in California.
•The police response time in Oakland to priority calls is already three times longer than the average time in California.
So what do city councilmembers suggest doing? Councilmember Quan and three others issued a proposal on June 21, 2010 suggesting no police training academies for the next two years. That is a proposal to reduce the police force through attrition by 100 officers, taking into account the normal loss to resignations and retirements. This cut by refusing to train replacements is in addition to threatened layoffs.
Councilmember Quan proposes rewriting the rules of Measure Y "that would give the City an emergency suspension of the 739 budget requirement." (Weekly newsletter, June 19, 2010) She wants to reduce the police count while continuing to collect the Measure Y taxes.
The first job of any municipal government is public safety. City government is not the school district and not the county. Only City Hall provides the main police force. These councilmembers might as well just propose to declare Oakland dissolved, a no-civilization zone.
Oakland today has half a police force compared with most major cities. Oakland needs at least 1,100 officers, not the 775 we have today. When city councilmembers even suggest layoffs of police, they are advertising to all residents and all business, to all prospective residents and businesses, "This city does not care who violates your home or shop. This city does not care whether someone mugs you on the street."
You can call (510) 238-3266 to register your outrage at the idea of withdrawing even more safety resources from Oakland.