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August 19 2013

So, If You Call the Cops, How Long Will It Take Them to Get There?

Patrice J. Lee

Residents of cities and towns are paying extra to secure their safety and property because the police aren’t providing sufficient services.

Unsatisfied by the level of protection that police departments are providing and facing spikes in crime (including violent crime like murder), residents of neighborhoods in major cities and small towns are pooling their resources to hire private security. And they find that it works.

With 61 murders under their belt and crime on the rise Oakland, California residents are taking new measures to protect themselves. Neighborhoods that once thought they were immune from the routine gun violence have decided to pay for private security patrols.

In a San Jose neighborhood, some of the residents are galvanized behind hiring private security patrols to stave off nuisances and more serious crimes. Each home would be asked to kick in $20 per month for the service.

But these crime districts aren’t new to some larger cities. In Baltimore City, four neighborhoods pay a surtax on top of their regular tax burden to provide money for supplemental security and sanitation services. This program has been in place since the mid-1990s. Apparently, it works so well that other neighborhoods want in.

Over the past 15 years Louisiana created more than 50 crime prevention districts around the state. Residents pay an annual $50 - $500 “parcel fee” on top of their property tax. This goes toward crime prevention, such as, hiring extra patrols, installing cameras, improving lighting and rehabbing blighted property.

An East Baton Rouge Sheriff explains why these prevention districts work:

“As a private citizen, when the concept first came out, and as a law enforcement officer, I questioned why should people have to pay more. But the harsh reality is we will never have enough people to be where we want to be at times we need to be. This is a tool, a very beneficial tool when used correctly.”

If we survey cities and neighborhoods across the country I’m sure we may find other instances of small towns and large cities looking for new ways to provide the protection law enforcement is unable to provide.

There is good reason for these efforts. Nationally crime appears to be on the rise. According to FBI data:

Preliminary figures indicate that, as a whole, law enforcement agencies throughout the nation reported an increase of 1.2 percent in the number of violent crimes brought to their attention for 2012 when compared with figures reported for 2011. The violent crime category includes murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Collectively, the number of property crimes in the United States in 2012 decreased 0.8 percent when compared with data from 2011. Property crimes include burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft.

The same report finds startling numbers on violent crime in large cities with populations between half a million and million.  In these areas violent crime is up 3.5% and murders are 12.5%. Interestingly burglary and larceny are down or have changed little from 2011, but motor vehicle theft has seen a spike.

As Americans we shouldn’t take it lightly that government is failing to deliver on one of the few constitutionally derived roles. State and local governments retain the right to regulate local matters concerning the health, safety, and morality of its residents. Expecting that law enforcement protects each person’s life and body is not an unreasonable expectation. But as we’ve seen in the cases above, budget cut-backs have hit law enforcement causing them to scale back on patrols and even emergency responses to things like gun shots. We overall aren’t against budget cuts, but shouldn’t they occur in less essential services (of which there are many)? Because of the way these cuts are made, residents are then forced to hire their own private protection.

That leaves me scratching my head.

I understand why celebrities like Lindsay Lohan and Jennifer Lopez hire additional security. They get crazies trying to harass or potentially harm them each time they step outside of their door.

But why should regular Americans like John Doe and Jane Nobody have to pony up additional money for security patrols through their neighborhood to stop crime? Is police patrolling not a reasonable expectation for the current level of tax revenue that’s collected? What are state and local governments using the revenue they collect for services, if not the protection of the people within their borders?

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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