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Ventura County Perspective | SECOND OPINION

Declining Crime Doesn't Equal Less Need for Law Enforcement

Enforcement and prevention do not eliminate the problem but rather keep it at bay. There is danger in relaxing vigilance.

May 07, 2000|BOB BROOKS | Bob Brooks is Ventura County sheriff

Are taxpayers getting their money's worth? That's the question posed in your editorial, "These Numbers Lie," (April 23) regarding Ventura County's declining crime rate. At issue in your editorial is whether the level of funding for law enforcement should be reconsidered, given an implied declining need for such services.

To your question I must answer a resounding, "Yes!" Crime is not a benign phenomenon needing only minimal maintenance to keep it at static levels, like one's lawn. Its opportunistic growth is only restrained by the consistent pressure of proactive and reactive law enforcement action against it.

To suggest that lower crime rates justify reducing police resources is not only illogical but also quite risky. We fight crime by tough enforcement and prevention through vigilance, intelligence and education. But such efforts don't eliminate crime; they just keep it at bay. Dropping crime rates are indicative of effective community-oriented policing, coupled with other social and demographic factors.

The "peace dividend" argument has been made in the past regarding our nation's armed forces. After almost every major confrontation, some cry out for a dismantling of our military resources. This has frequently left us too weak to prevent or adequately respond to a future threat. President Reagan, on the other hand, used strength as a means of ending the Cold War without the use of force.

The military and law enforcement are seen by some as necessary evils. Likewise, the natural reaction to both is a desire to reduce their presence and cost as much as possible, especially when times are good. Unfortunately, the reality of our world is that the hatred, weakness and greed at the roots of both war and crime are always present, but can be restrained to varying degrees.

The fight to maintain a secure society is never-ending and ever-changing. Our dedicated officers fight daily to keep Ventura County safe because we realize that retaking communities once they have been lost to gangs or other criminal activity is an almost insurmountable task.

I feel the same gratitude as do most people when reading about our county's falling crime rate. Public safety is one of the primary reasons many people choose to live in Ventura County.

*

When crime decreases in a growing county, it is a testament to a lot of hard work by deputy sheriffs and police officers and staunch support by our communities.

I appreciate how much commitment, sacrifice and effort, not only on the part of law enforcement agencies but also by our residents, it has taken to maintain such a level of security. But I also see the danger in relaxing that vigilance.

Statistical reporting issues aside, policing--and the public's support of policing--are unquestionably necessary to preserving the quality of life we expect.

Are county taxpayers getting their money's worth? Absolutely.

But the real question posed in the April 23 editorial regarding our crime rates is: Should we be satisfied and risk lowering our guard against crime?

The answer is: not if we care about making sure that Ventura County remains a safe place to live, work and raise our families.

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