In NJ, police layoffs lead to drop in arrests

By Geoff Mulvihill

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Nov. 20 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

Camden's declines were even larger in the first months after layoffs before officers started being rehired. That's been true elsewhere, as well. In Atlantic City, officers were laid off and rehired in multiple waves until the August, when the last of the laid-off officers were brought back. In August and September — a small sample size, to be sure — there were slightly more arrests per month in the resort city for indictable crimes than there were before the layoffs.

Much of this impact was foreseen even as layoffs were announced, even though officials in some cities promised just as many patrols as they had before.

In some cities, police won't go to the scene of many fender-benders. Instead, the people involved in minor crashes fill out their own reports and mail them in. In Camden, Police Chief Scott Thomson announced when the layoffs were made that police wouldn't respond to minor theft complaints any more, either.

Rutgers' Fisher said the police officers who remain spend much of their shifts running from call to call. That leaves little opportunity for them to deal with loitering and other violations they might spot on their beat.

"It's an important consequence of these layoffs that needs to be reported to the public," Fisher said. "There is a price as a result of these cutbacks in public safety positions."

Faulk, the Camden County prosecutor, said that in Camden, moving detectives to patrols has hurt the department's ability to investigate.

"The patrol officers respond to a crime, they get the basic information," he said. "If there's an individual around who's responsible, they'll make an arrest."

If there's not, though, there might not be anyone available to investigate further on lesser crimes.

Reach Mulvihill at http://www.twitter.com/geoffmulvihill

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