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Police Layoffs Could Cost Lives

Police Layoffs Could Cost Lives

The Star-Leger via YellowBrix

December 09, 2010

NEWARK, NJ – When a skeletal staff in the city clerk’s office can’t get to a ringing phone, citizens can leave a message and wait for a return call. But when a phone goes unanswered in a police or fire station, people could die.

The ultimate bottom line in the massive budget cuts rolling violently throughout the state might not be in dollars. It could be in lives.

For years, New Jersey cities have trimmed other services while trying to reduce police and fire through attrition. But that’s over. The urban tsunami is here: 167 police officers laid off in Newark; 60 cops and 30 firefighters slashed in Atlantic City; half the police force and one-third of the firefighters threatened in Camden.

Some of these jobs could have been saved with union concessions: Seventeen cops were rehired thanks to givebacks in Atlantic City. Meanwhile, Jersey City officials warn that 82 cops will be cut without concessions. Stubborn unions have left residents wondering: Just who are the cops protecting and serving — themselves?

Brace yourself. Territory taken, block by block, by aggressive policing over the past decade could be reclaimed by criminals. As frightened residents in dangerous urban neighborhoods remain hostages in their homes, and safer areas worry about spillover, it’s becoming clear: Austerity will mean less security.

The Newark layoffs, for example, are the largest since 200 cops were cut in 1978. Some of the city’s bloodiest years followed and it took the city decades to recover.

Camden officials are hoping for help — from 19 officers, 40 unarmed guards and 200 security cameras at Rutgers University; from federal money that will provide cameras around the city; from the 70 members of the security staff at Cooper University Hospital; from security staff at Camden County College.

But cameras can’t make arrests and fire engines can’t drive themselves. In the end, cities might need help from the state police and neighboring towns.

Bill Lavin, president of the state firefighters union, says firehouse staffs were thin before the recession: “There’s no fat to be cut," he said. "There will be loss of life. It’s going to be tragic.”


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