The Lone Star state is famous for its own harsh brand of justice, but residents in one small town will soon be left to fend for themselves after budget cuts forced Alto, Texas to lay off its entire police force:
Alto, Texas is preparing for a crime wave, after the small East Texas town put its entire police force on furlough…
In an effort to save money, the city has laid off its police chief and four police officers for six months — longer if Alto’s finances don’t improve.
In the meantime, the county sheriff’s department will take over law enforcement duties for the town of 1,200, according to the AP. The sheriff’s department is already responsible for policing the nearby city of Wells, which laid off its sole police officer last year.
Alto residents have every reason to fear a rise in crime will follow the police force’s departure. The town’s per-capita crime rate is already above the state average. There were 66 crimes in Alto last year, compared to 51 the previous year.
“Everybody’s talking about ‘bolt your doors, buy a gun,’ ” said Monty Collins, Alto’s mayor, who opposed the City Council vote to furlough police officers.
Kelly Curry, the manager of an off-road-vehicle park, now carries two guns for self-defense. “The thought that we could be 35 or 40 minutes from getting the sheriff’s deputy here, depending on where they are in the county, is scary,” she says.
To close a historic $27 billion budget deficit, Gov. Rick Perry (R) and the Republican-controlled legislature have made draconian cuts to state services and have passed the buck to city governments across the state to make impossible decisions about which essential expenditures to cut. Alto, for instances, faces a $185,000 budget deficit.
The Wall Street Journal notes that the closure of small-town police forces “is part of a broader consolidation of services in communities across the U.S.” It’s a problem because like fire departments and other essential services, “keeping the peace is rarely a revenue-making operation.”