If the best crime-fighting strategy Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Police Chief Ralph Godbee can come up with is a higher tax on the people being victimized, then the mayor and his chief ought to be sent packing. The city can’t survive more of the high tax, high crime solution.
The Board of Police Commissioners has recommended placing on the November ballot a millage to raise $56 million to hire 500 additional police officers. The proposal would add 9 mills to tax bills for five years and cost a resident with a $100,000 home about $450 a year.
Any thought of adding another tax to the highest taxed residents in Michigan has to be the joke of the new budget year. Detroit already has the highest income, property tax and utility tax rates in Michigan. These revenue streams are spiraling downward as crime drives out most of the working-class population.
What remains are those least able to escape the scourge. They include largely defenseless children, the elderly and poverty-prone residents who suffer most in an environment where lawlessness has displaced civil order. Yet there’s nothing in Detroit’s history that would lead anyone to believe that the city can tax its way to better police protection. Another tax will likely expedite the stampede to the suburbs.
The problem, of course, is not entirely law enforcement related. The record is clear that many young people contributing to the murderous spree are not only unemployed, they are unemployable, lacking high school diplomas and the social skills needed to hold down a steady job.
Low expectations and lack of direction from a clueless school bureaucracy means thousands of would-be criminals won’t be challenged early on when their interest in school is most likely to be decided. That, and the fact that many come from fractured families, explains why many are easily steered down the path to underclass behavior.
But don’t expect crime victims to have much sympathy about this intractable social condition when they are staring down the barrel of a gun belonging to a thug who has just kicked their door in and the cops are unresponsive. To a large extent, national and state firearm sales are setting new records and concealed weapon permit applications substantially up, because police can’t protect the populace from predators.
Insufficient crime-fighting tools also contribute mightily to police deficiencies. If Mayor Bing has his way, the 2012-13 budget will reflect an 18 percent cut to the police department, totaling about $75 million. About 380 positions out of 2,100 would be eliminated through attrition and early-retirement. There should be no higher budget priority of any government than the safety of its residents. And Detroiters already pay dearly for that security that’s denied them.
The focus should be on the inability of the police hierarchy to maximize existing resources. Chief Godbee and the Police Commission, policymakers for the department, don’t have a coherent plan for curbing the violence. Worse, the mayor won’t give the department proper equipment to get the job done.
The depleted, demoralized rank-and-file not only grapple with weak leadership at the top, officers vainly struggle daily, at considerable personal risk, to keep the peace and control the carnage among an increasingly hostile citizenry. Because of the demand and the need, the only explanation why the powerful appeal of hiring more cops doesn’t prevail is incompetence.
Even as this senseless police staffing debate rages, there is an “open season” on Detroiters. Criminals easily assess the false signals of the ruinous crime-fighting strategy and exploit its inconsistencies and deficiencies. The deadly result is in the city’s mounting body count.
So let’s be clear: The mayor, police chief and police commission have yet to propose anything resembling a surgical strike against uncontrolled crime. That means Detroiters fundamentally need a new mayor, a new chief or a violence containment strategy they can live with.