Thursday, September 25, 2008

Police May Stop Responding To Some Crimes

Maybe if they didn't waste resources locking up people who like to get high, maybe they have more money!

PALM BAY, Fla. -- A budget crunch in Palm Bay could mean city residents who forget to secure car doors or close garages will get only a case number and nothing in terms of a visit by patrol officers if something is stolen.

The possible policy revision is part of a wider cost-cutting look at the Palm Bay Police Department's $20 million annual budget, Local 6 News partner Florida Today reported.

"We're looking very seriously at the types of calls we would go to," Palm Bay Police Chief Bill Berger said. "Still, about 85 to 90 percent of the people who've had their cars broken into left the car doors open. But, obviously, if it's an actual break-in, we'll respond."

The potential move is seen as an unusual step.

Other surrounding agencies -- such as Melbourne Police Department -- continue to respond to similar vehicle break-in calls.

Berger, however, pointed out that his agency has been hit hard by higher fuel costs and a cut in revenue. Earlier this year, Berger implemented a number of cost-saving efforts, including a no-idling policy for patrol cars.

"Certainly, Amendment 1 had an impact," Berger said, referring to the sweeping, statewide property-tax ballot item voters approved earlier this year. "The big promise was that it wouldn't affect public safety, but it has."

The department likely will lose four police officer positions -- all held for officers either working or serving in the military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Those officers will have their jobs when they return, but we're having to keep those positions vacant," Berger said.

Also under review will be whether officers who take home marked patrol cars will need to pay for their own gas or reimburse the city about 50 cents for every mile driven away from work.

Berger said he also is working hard to keep the department's nontaxpayer-funded programs running, including its DNA database program that uses officers to collect blood, saliva and other biological evidence at crime scenes.

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