Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Raise the cost of committing crime

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We should strongly support a couple of great public safety proposals that appear in the 2007 Preliminary Public Safety Master Plan recently released by the Prince George’s Planning Board. The Public Safety Master Plan proposes that we create a crime surcharge to help fund public safety and move as quickly as possible toward bringing the size of our police force in line with the national average for jurisdictions of our size.

We should encourage the state legislature to create an offender-based crime prevention surcharge in Prince George’s County, which would be a fine paid by a monetary surcharge or collected through disposition of seized property that would be dedicated to public safety resources, like additional police officers and more fire and EMS personnel⁄equipment. Law-abiding taxpayers should not be [the] only ones who bear the burden for crime in our county. Crime should become an increasingly rare and expensive proposition for criminals.

Additionally, we should encourage the county leadership and the police department to create a strategy to establish an overall police officer to population ratio of 2.7 officers per 1,000 residents, which would be a significant increase from our current level of having 1.6 officers per 1,000 residents. Federal Bureau of Justice statistics show that jurisdictions with more than 250,000 residents have an average of 2.5 officers per 1,000 people. The FBI reports that the nationwide staffing average for county law enforcement agencies is 2.6 officers per 1,000 persons.

Most relevant to Prince George’s County, jurisdictions with police departments of over 1,000 sworn officers and with crime rates that exceed 25 crimes per 1,000 residents have an average of 2.7 officers per 1,000 residents. A staffing level based on this ratio — and the estimated 2006 county population of 846,123 — would amount to a force of approximately 2,285 officers.

In 2006, the police department was budgeted for only 1,597 sworn officers. Let’s set an objective to achieve a ratio of 2.7 officers per 1,000 residents and increase the ability of our officers to conduct the kind of community policing and have the visible presence needed to substantially reduce crime in our county.

Read more about the 2007 Preliminary Public Safety Master Plan at http:⁄⁄www.mncppc.org⁄county⁄PublicSafety⁄.

Mel Franklin, Upper Marlboro