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 Rand's Rants & Raves  October 22, 2011

Using "budget cuts" as an excuse for letting
criminals go loose is reckless endangerment

Rand Green 
Yosemite Valley



Car burglaryNOT ALL of the criminals in the United States who should be behind bars are. Some are released from prison or from jail because of so-called "prison overcrowding," and some on the pretense that "budget cuts" make it necessary. And oftentimes, those who are released go right back out and commit more crimes, ranging from theft and burglary to rape and murder.

In Fresno, California, which has the dubious honor of being the car theft capital of the world, the police have been working hard to identify, capture, put out of business and bring to justice the career criminals responsible for most of the car thefts, and they have been having considerable success. With the arrest Thursday, Oct. 20, of a man who admits to being responsible for more than 1,000 vehicle thefts in the Fresno area, three of the top five "most wanted" car thieves on the police department's list are now "behind bars," according to the Fresno Bee.

"But there is no guarantee he will stay there for long," the Bee reported Oct. 22. "Because of county budget cuts, Sheriff Margaret Mims has opted to close jail floors, which reduces the jail's capacity. When the number of inmates hits capacity, the jail must begin releasing inmates." And in fact, "early releases may begin once the capacity hits 90 percent," the Bee story said.

I do not believe that either prison overcrowding or budget cuts are a justification for letting these high-risk criminals back on the streets. Certainly governments at all levels local, state and federal need to reduce spending, but discretion needs to be exercised on where those cuts are made.

The biggest problem is that way too much money is being spent on programs in which government shouldn't be involved in the first place. Those programs should be eliminated even if there were no budget restraints.

There are other programs that are nice to have when times are good but should be cut first when money gets tight, just as you would do with your own family budget.

Then there are the high-priority services that are the first responsibility of governments. At the federal level, that include national security. At the local level, it includes public safety. Adequate funding for those responsibilities should never be sacrificed just to keep other less vital program running.

It is irresponsible for any government or government agency to make "across-the-board cuts" just out of a sense of fairness to all. Rather, cuts should be prioritized.

In point of fact, they often are prioritized, but not based on the right priorities. Even worse than indiscriminate across-the-board cuts is the widespread practice of city councils, county boards of supervisors and government agencies of all stripes to deliberately make the cuts where they will hurt the worst, where they will make the general public most upset.

Why would they do that? Purely and simply in the hope that the outrage will translate into public support for higher taxes. But the answer is not higher taxes. It is more responsible use of tax dollars.

When city, county or state officials use budget cuts as an excuse for releasing criminals onto the streets who ought to be behind bars, rather than taking a sharper knife to other programs that could have been cut without affecting public safety, those who make such decisions are knowingly and deliberately putting the lives and property of the residents of that city, county or state at risk. That, it seems to me, clearly constitutes reckless endangerment on the part of the officials making those decisions. Perspicaciously Yours, Rand Green, Editor/Publisher,
Source:  2011 Rand Green Communications.

Source: Copyright 2011 Rand Green Communications.
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