“My Word” Column
At the current
has a relentless opportunistic quality – it exploits weaknesses, especially
reduced police protection. Unchecked, it turns good neighborhoods into bad ones
and transforms bad neighborhoods into war zones.
rate from this group exceeds 70 percent. For a typical parolee, there are
several buddies, all at high risk of criminal behavior. In large parts of
This law enforcement challenge is magnified by a “don’t snitch” ethos on the street. Most homicides are unsolved for this reason.
that by now we’d have learned that maintaining security in places with large
crime-prone sub-populations can’t be done on the cheap. When
This March I pointed out that OPD, already suffering from inadequate staffing levels, could ill-afford the reduction of even one officer position. I warned that deeper cuts could lead to a catastrophe.
Those deeper cuts were implemented.
Having worked with public protection budgets at the county level for years, I am familiar with the arguments that always surface in hard times.
Everything with a constituency is equal: Parks, roads, health, welfare, and so on. So nothing is sacred and all pain is shared.
But this is
just not true. In a war zone, there is one overriding priority: Stop the
war. Unchecked, the domestic war in
Chief Word’s borrowed cops program, using loaned officers from other agencies, has helped stem the violence. This was a temporary fix, a proof of concept, verification that more cops on the street reduce crime.
Go to Chief
Word and ask: What resources do you need to reverse the trend in violent crime,
to get ahead of the killers and return
Convert this to a number and a funding plan.
Go to the Council and to the voters as necessary and get it passed.
In the dark
days of the Great Depression, FDR said it best: Among the greatest of freedoms
is freedom from fear. This defines the one entitlement that trumps all the
rest. It is the right to have the criminal law enforced in your neighborhood,
rich or poor. No child or adult in
Jay Gaskill is the former Alameda County Public Defender