An Associated Press analysis of municipal court data shows that when police are laid off, department priorities shift: Arrests and summonses of all kinds drop, with enforcement for minor crimes and traffic violations suffering the most as police focus their remaining resources on more serious offenses.
The strategy may make sense, but experts say it leaves a troubling gap in law enforcement.
"People are committing crimes and they're not suffering the consequences for it," said Camden County Prosecutor Warren Faulk. "I think it has emboldened those who are committing the crimes. They do not get arrested, and consequently, they continue committing these crimes."Of course this doesn't bode well for the future if this continues. There is a belief that pursuing criminal cases for relatively minor quality of life issues can lead to declines in other types of crimes. This theory is sometimes referred to as the "broken windows theory". Additionally, arrests for minor offenses are a tool to take serious criminals off the streets. This keeps them from committing more serious crimes.
Either way, there are real consequences to the drastic cuts we saw take place in New Jersey and other cash strapped municipalities. While we can strive to be as efficient as possible and stretch our budget dollars, there does come a point where a reduction in budget monies will lead to a reduction in police services.
For the public, they have to decide what level of police services they are willing to pay for.