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Posted: 6/7/2003 8:15:01 AM EDT
Heads up folks! =========================================================== As Budgets Shrink, Cities See an Impact on Criminal Justice http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/07/national/07CRIM.html June 7, 2003 As Budgets Shrink, Cities See an Impact on Criminal Justice By FOX BUTTERFIELD PORTLAND, Ore., June 6 — The Portland police budget has been cut by more than 10 percent in the last three years, and the strain is showing. Station houses now close at night, and the 960-member force is down 64 officers. With no money for overtime, undercover drug officers sometimes simply stop what they are doing — for instance, tailing suspects or executing search warrants — when their shifts end. Because the city also has little money for public defenders, Mark Kroeker, the Portland police chief, said officers were now giving a new version of the Miranda warning when they arrested a suspect in a nonviolent crime. "They effectively have to say, `If you can't afford a lawyer, you will be set free. Enjoy,' " Chief Kroeker said. Crime here is rising, and Chief Kroeker says he is not surprised. In the first four months of the year, shoplifting is up 10 percent from the same period in 2002, car break-ins have increased 12 percent, the number of stolen cars has risen 19 percent and home burglaries have jumped 21 percent, police figures show. "The scary thing is that the worst results are still six months down the road, as the bad guys realize nothing is going to happen to them, and then you start to get an increase in gang shootings, armed robberies and homicides," Chief Kroeker said. The cycle that is bedeviling Portland is emerging around the country, law enforcement officials say, as cities cut spending on all areas of criminal justice, including policing, prosecutions and prisons. In Multnomah County, where Portland is located, the district attorney's office, the county courts and the public defender's office, which are financed in large part by the State Legislature, are so short of money that they have stopped prosecuting drug and property crimes, like burglary and auto theft, until at least July 1. The police commissioner in Seattle, R. Gil Kerlikowske, said that because of budget cuts he had reduced his force by 24 officers and 50 civilians this year and put a freeze on the hiring and training of new officers. The city now has about 1,250 officers, a police spokeswoman said. Burglaries, car thefts and shoplifting are up 18 percent this year, Mr. Kerlikowske said, though violent crime has remained steady. In Minneapolis, Robert K. Olson, the police chief, has cut 118 officers from his 900-member force this year because much of the money for the city's police comes from the state, which is running a budget deficit. Chief Olson said he had lost another 81 police officers because President Bush had essentially eliminated a Clinton administration program that provided money to add 100,000 police around the country. In San Diego, long known for having a low ratio of police officers to population and a low crime rate, John Welter, the interim police chief, is no longer able to fill the positions of the six or seven officers who retire each month. Mr. Welter said he expected to be 100 officers short by next spring, "the worst situation I've faced in 34 years on the job." Beyond budget cuts, the war on terrorism is also depleting law enforcement resources. Chief Olson, in Minneapolis, said he had to assign 16 officers to guard the city's waterworks against a terrorism threat, with no federal money as compensation. But he said he considered himself almost lucky that 15 of his officers were called to active service in the reserves or National Guard during the Iraq war because he did not have to pay those called to military duty, saving money for other officers' jobs. The Portland police have also been hurt by orders from Washington to go on terrorism alerts. The Columbia and Willamette Rivers run through Portland, and the police have spent more than $2 million guarding the many bridges during the alerts, with no sign of money that was promised by the federal government. What is particularly painful, experts say, is that many of the strategies devised in the 1990's to reduce crime are now being abandoned or cut back because of the national economic slump and widespread budget cuts. "It's like watching `broken windows' in reverse," said James Alan Fox, a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University in Boston, referring to the `broken windows' theory that the police could prevent serious crimes like robbery and murder by first cracking down on smaller crimes that blighted neighborhoods, like graffiti and drug dealing. This theory played a major role in the crime-fighting tactics employed by William J. Bratton when he was police commissioner in New York. The fiscal crisis in New York City, which is facing an estimated $3.8 billion deficit, has had a significant effect on the Police Department, whose $3.2 billion budget has been cut by $250 million in recent months. In the past three years, the department has shrunk by more than 4,000 officers to a force of about 36,500. At the same time, the city has reassigned about 1,000 officers to counterterrorism duties, at a cost of roughly $150 million a year. Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly has said that the New York department is struggling under the financial constraints but has managed nonetheless to keep crime down, an 8 percent decline so far this year on top of a 6 percent decline last year. Commissioner Kelly has credited a new program called Operation Impact that has narrowly focused his more-limited resources on dozens of areas around the city that have consistently been the scene of violent crimes and shootings. Here in Oregon, Sheriff Bernie Giusto of Multnomah County said he had had to lay off jail guards as a result of the state budget deficit, reducing the number of beds available for inmates to 1,462 from 2,071. Sheriff Giusto said he was already figuring out which categories of criminals he would not accept when state officials declared that on March 1 they would no longer pay for public defenders except for the most violent offenders. "I put on my sheriff's uniform and I went down to the Legislature in Salem and testified," he said. "I told them, This is how bad Oregon has become — law enforcement has to come beg you for money for crooks, so we can appoint lawyers for them and prosecute them and hold them in jail." Under the United States Constitution and Supreme Court rulings, anyone charged with a crime must have a lawyer, and no one can be held in jail without having a lawyer. To save money, Jim Hennings, the executive director of the public defender's office in Portland, has given up a month's salary and made his lawyers give up two weeks' pay. But the Multnomah County courts are now operating only four days a week, and the district attorney, Michael Schrunk, and the presiding judge, Dale Koch, have agreed to try only serious violent felony cases. All felony property and drug crime trials have been delayed until at least July l, and Mr. Schrunk and Judge Koch say the backlog of cases could choke the courts. Instead of being prosecuted, misdemeanors are being settled as a violation, the equivalent of a parking ticket, to keep the backlog from growing. -- continued --
Link Posted: 6/7/2003 8:15:44 AM EDT
Mr. Schrunk, who has been district attorney since 1981, has seen his own office shrink under budget pressure to 77 prosecutors from 99 in the past two and a half years. He has largely had to give up some of his favorite innovations: a drug court, a mental health court and a community court for resolving low-level disputes. And it pains him, he said, not to be able to prosecute misdemeanors. Officer Rebecca Wooten of the Portland police says she has seen the effects of this first hand. Last week Officer Wooten arrested a young man in a garage burglary and took him to the police station. There he was given a ticket instead of an indictment. Within hours, the man was arrested again on suspicion of burglary. Officer Wooten, 48, has 25 years on the force, and when she reaches 50, she said, "I'm gone as soon as I can retire." Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
Link Posted: 6/7/2003 1:40:38 PM EDT
Link Posted: 6/7/2003 7:41:48 PM EDT
$8.88 an hour.... WTF? please tell me that's for part timers and not full time guys? WTF do you top out at? God bless you guys working for the low wages [beer] My old place didn't pay well but it was still higher than that...
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