To the Editor:
While the mayor, City Council and city manager are making plans to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on a waterfront plan and metro, the city’s public safety departments are suffering.
There have been numerous cuts to the Alexandria police and fire department budgets over several budget cycles which in turn have adversely affected the safety of all citizens in the City of Alexandria. These budget cuts have failed to provide adequate resources to support our police and fire departments. Recently, we have had two armed robberies in or near our development. The perpetrator has yet to be arrested. We, like other communities, have had minor offenses committed in our development in the past, but these are the first serious crimes committed in our neighborhood, which have alarmed many of our residents. One might ask if the budget cuts were a contributing factor.
The Alexandria Police Department currently has several dozen officers less than their previous authorized levels of years past. These cuts in personnel have led to the disbandment of several specialized crime prevention units. Recently, several firehouses were being considered by city management for closure. Although the city manager and his personnel have received large salaries and raises, Alexandria police officers have had to endure cuts to their pay and benefits, making them among the lowest paid police officers in the area. These cuts obviously affect recruitment and retention of highly qualified professionals. According to recent Alexandria Police Department statistics, violent crimes such as robberies and sexual assaults are currently significantly up over the previous year. Furthermore, due to the high cost of living and lack of subsidized programs, less than 10 percent of the Alexandria police officers currently live in the city limits. One has to wonder how all these budget cuts affect crime prevention and public safety in our city.
Most cities across the country are experiencing fiscal difficulties. However, during these difficult times a city, in my opinion, should focus their resources on public safety, schools and infrastructure. Anything else should be secondary until new fiscal streams are realized.
In addition, I feel that it is time for the Alexandria Police Department to have a Citizens Advisory Board, like most other major U.S. cities have. This board (made up of volunteers from city residents) would help the police department with communicating issues in their communities; discus non-lethal use of force policies (use of mace; taser, bean bag rounds, etc. …); discuss purchase of large armored equipment vs. needed equipment like communication upgrades and discuss placement of personnel in high crime rate areas. Just think what issues could have been prevented in Ferguson, Mo. if they had a Citizens Advisory Board?
I am asking all city residents to contact the mayor, council or city management and ask for two things: 1) Stop cutting our public safety budget. 2) Create a Citizens Advisory Board for the Alexandria Police Department. Let’s all work together to make this city a better and safer place to live.