For every municipal story I've written in the last year, I've heard the same thing, over and over: Budgets are being slashed. And it's only getting worse. But those same stories involve municipal security folks spending money on security, right? It's true, there are plenty of case studies out there about the deployment of wireless video surveillance systems or an improvement to communication networks, but many of those projects are funded through federal grants. The government has spent money on security since 9/11, but will that money start to dry up soon?
Yesterday, I spoke with the panelists for an upcoming presentation at TechSec Solutions called "Look Ma, No Wires." This presentation will focus on wireless technology and address issues including when to implement a wireless solution and what type of solution works best for certain deployments. But something that caught my ear as I was listening to Ralph Bell from Motorola was in regards to the work they do with municipalities. Basically, he reiterated that municipalities often have the money needed for an initial deployment, but don't have the financial resources or in-house expertise to maintain the infrastructure or pay for upgrades to the system. It's my understanding municipalities often receive federal grants, which are often designated for initial deployments, but rarely can be used for maintenance or repairs and the municipality must pay for that from its own funds.
And budget woes aren't going away any time soon. I just read an interesting Q&A article with the mayor of Newark, N.J., Cory Booker, about his approach to budgeting. Here's the link from the Huffington Post. Like many elected officials, he understood the importance of police, fire and other public safety agencies. As a matter of fact, here's his original approach to budget cutting:
"Squeeze everything else but police and fire."
But, according to the article, last year, the city laid off 164 officers, about 13 percent of the force. The reporter asked how it came to that. Here's his answer:
Look, budgets across the country -- 60 percent of American cities have had reductions in their forces of public safety. And, so, this is not something that's unique to Newark...So, we have dramatic losses in revenue. And public safety, frankly -- police and fire -- make up the significant majority of our budget. We were squeezing and starving every other area of our city. Furloughing employees, cutting staff. But it came to a point where we couldn't cut enough to make up for the tremendous budgetary shortfall.
He goes on to address having to put older police officers back out on the streets in order to maintain the same police presence before the cuts, but also notes that such budgetary restrictions have impacted the reduction in crime in the city. Of course, he also spins it as actually putting more experienced officers back out on city streets - he's a politician after all.
What do you think? How worried are you about the correlation between budgetary cuts and public safety? Are we over the worst of it or is the worst yet to come?