Smithfield, N.C., Police to Cut Back on 911 Responses, Cites Budget Woes

By Maggy Patrick

Nov 1, 2011 2:35pm

gty police car 911 nt 111101 main Smithfield, N.C., Police to Cut Back on 911 Responses, Cites Budget Woes

 

The police department in Smithfield, N.C., has said it would no longer respond to all 911 calls and would stop pursuing some misdemeanor crimes if the town didn’t approve a measure to  increase the department’s budget for gasoline, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.

Police Chief Michael Scott will ask the town council to allow him to reallocate some of his $30,000 office supply and equipment repair funds to compensate for the shortfall in the gas budget. Smithfield reportedly cut the fuel budget by 14 percent — or by about $10,000 — from previous  fiscal year –  according to the paper. Without an increase, the department runs out of gas by February 2012.

The Smithfield Police Department is expected to detail how the town’s budget cuts would affect street patrol later today. Scott said the department had already had to cut back on patrols — and has even halved the number of patrol cars on the roads at times.

The town recently experienced a series of crimes – an armed robbery of a convenience store, a theft of tires and rims from an auto shop —  that Scott said could have been prevented by heavier  patrolling.

“Those things can all be directly related to patrol issues,” he said, according to the News & Observer. He also said that the department had been fielding complaints about the lowered police presence,  and that some callers had even asked if they should buy guns to protect themselves.

City council members reportedly asked Scott to study alternatives to his plan to shift funds from one part of the budget to another. The alternatives that the police chief plans to present later today are unprecedented. According to the News & Observer, department officials said that detectives would  be asked to investigate only felony crimes and would be forced to drop misdemeanor investigations for now.

The plan also means that 911 calls made from hotels and pay phones  would be ignored when they were followed by hang ups, “as a very high percentage of these calls are errors in dialing.” Police would also stop responding to burglar alarms, because of the high number of false alerts. Patrolling would also stop on the southern and western sections of town, according to the paper, because these are not areas of violent crime.

Councilman Perry Harris said he wanted the department to look for other money-saving measures. One suggestion was that the town sell 10 older squad cars to pay for the 10 new vehicles they bought this year.

“I think we need to uncover every rock and every stone to see other areas where we could save some money,” he said.

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