free market lovers, eat your hearts out!
let the free market save/fuck us all.http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124027127337237011.html
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Facing pressure to crack down on crime amid a record budget deficit, Oakland is joining other U.S. cities that are turning over more law-enforcement duties to private armed guards.
The City Council recently voted to hire International Services Inc., a private security agency, to patrol crime-plagued districts. While a few Oakland retail districts previously have pooled cash to pay for unarmed security services, using public funds to pay for private armed guards would mark a first for the city.
Oakland police officers block a downtown street in January amid protests over the bond set for a former transit officer charged with killing an unarmed man on a subway platform on New Year's Day.
Hiring private guards is less expensive than hiring new officers. Oakland -- facing a record $80 million budget shortfall -- spends about 65% of its budget for police and fire services, including about $250,000 annually, including benefits and salary, on each police officer.
In contrast, for about $200,000 a year the city can contract to hire four private guards to patrol the troubled East Oakland district where four on-duty police officers were killed in March. And the company, not the city, is responsible for insurance for the guards.
Oakland is not alone in seeking to improve public safety while reining in spending. This month, the Chicago City Council, facing a possible $200 million budget deficit, proposed expanding the responsibilities of private armed security forces by authorizing them to write traffic citations. In New Orleans, neighborhood committees have sought to expand special tax incentives to pay for private security for neighborhood patrols.
In Oakland -- a city east of San Francisco with about 400,000 people -- hiring security guards is the latest nontraditional measure in its attempt to reduce crime. Last year, Mayor Ron Dellums announced a partnership with the Guardian Angels, a volunteer crime patrol organization, in the midst of a rash of restaurant-takeover robberies. The partnership disbanded after authorities apprehended suspects in the robberies.
Though violent crime in the city was down in the first three months of 2009 from a year ago, the city remains one of California's most violent, with 124 homicides last year and about 25 so far this year. Police also must deal with long-running tensions with residents: The killing of an unarmed man by transit police in January sparked weeks of protests, and two months later the four officers were killed in East Oakland by a parolee.
Oakland police say they consider unarmed guards acceptable, but don't support armed guards. "People want to go with armed guards because they believe it's cheaper, but they lack adequate training [and] background checks," said spokesman Jeff Thomason. "Oakland police are better prepared for this city's streets than a few security guards."
But some local leaders say that with a record budget deficit they have few options to reduce the city's violence. "We need a cost-effective answer to the crime we are facing," said Ignacio De La Fuente, a City Council member representing East Oakland who has led the push for armed guards. He added that he is confident the security company's armed guards -- who will have state-certified public-safety training -- are up to par.
Mr. Dellums's spokesman, Paul Rose, says the mayor is concerned that private guards would lack proper training, putting the city at greater risk of lawsuits stemming from a shooting or other mishap. Mr. Dellums and Oakland's police union support an alternative plan, to be introduced Tuesday, that calls for the $200,000 dedicated for the private guards to be used for overtime for four police officers who would patrol the East Oakland area on foot.
International Services, based in Torrance, Calif., declined to comment for this story. The company's chief executive, Sam Karawia, is a reserve deputy sheriff for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department as well as the deputy director for the department's homeland-security-support unit.
When other U.S. cities have hired uniformed guards to patrol downtown districts, they most often have acted more as cleanup crews and neighborhood ambassadors than security officials. In the 1990s, retailers in crime-plagued locales began to organize business improvement districts, which collected fees for area enhancements, including hiring armed guards who functioned as backups to local police.
A February study of the 30 improvement districts in the downtown Los Angeles region said districts with the guards register significantly less crime than areas without them. Conducted by the Rand Corp., a policy research organization based in Santa Monica, Calif., the study found that from 1994 to 2005, violent crime dropped on average 8% more compared with the rest of the city during that period.
Some areas of New Orleans have used armed private patrols since 1997, when residents in an east New Orleans community petitioned Louisiana's Legislature to create a tax on property owners to pay for a private force. About 20 residential tax districts have been established, employing an estimated 100 private guards. This month, seven more neighborhoods voted to create districts.
"The guards are viewed as force multipliers, extra eyes and ears with high visibility, acting in concert with actual police officers," said John Macdonald, the lead researcher on the Rand study and a criminology professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
Mr. Macdonald nevertheless opposes turning to a private security service to take the place of police officers. "If an unfortunate event were to happen," he says, "it could cost the public more in the long term than what the city believes it could save."