The Long Beach Area Citizens Involved (LBACI), a grass-roots 750-member issue-oriented organization, is opposed to the request of the Long Beach Police Department to add 164 police and 70 civilians, and the increase in taxes to pay the $16 million per year for this 25% increase in the force.
The primary purpose of the increase is to be able to combat crime, drugs and gangs more effectively.
Our reasons for opposing the request are as follows:
1. There is no evidence to show that more police reverses crime, drugs or gangs. More arrests will, of course, be made but suppression does not solve the basic problem.
The handful of police assigned to crime prevention in the DARE program with children in the schools is an excellent activity, and if more police were requested for this purpose there would be no objection from LBACI.
It seems that government agencies from the military to our local police always cry for more, more, more. But does this mean that their desires should be automatically granted by the people who pay the bills?
In Kansas City a one-year controlled test was done. They doubled and tripled the patrols in one area of town for one year but there was no reduction in crime. Closer to home, a look at Los Angeles should tell us that the answer is not more police.
2. LBACI believes that prevention is a better and more lasting solution than suppression. Our scarce resources should be put into funding to keep our young people off the streets. They need job training, jobs, recreational facilities, drug clinics and education, rather than the simplistic solution of dumping more police on the streets.
Toward this end, LBACI supports the measure now under consideration by the council to increase the Recreation Department budget by $5 million, even if it requires a tax increase to raise the money. We believe in using our resources where they will do some good, not in wasting public money.
3. There is a tradition in Long Beach that before we spend millions of dollars on a program, we spend a few dollars on a study to see if it is needed. I have not heard one council person even mention an outside objective independent study to see how our police spend their time. With all due respect to the professionalism of our chief of police, his job is to ask for more. Citizens should ask for an objective outside study.
If the police force is increased by 25% as requested, this will, of course, produce more arrests. More arrests mean increasing the budget of the county criminal justice system (more judges, bailiffs, jails).
LBACI is not anti-police. We do believe, however, that the public must establish reasonable spending limits for all city departments, that the public is responsible for setting the priorities for our community, and that the proposal under discussion has the priorities upside down.
We don't object to putting any issue on the ballot to let the voters decide. But if this issue, which requires a two-thirds vote to raise taxes, does go on the ballot, we will urge a no vote.