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Editorial: Crime task force needs more study

Editorial: Crime task force needs more study

Before spending taxpayer money, do more research
Editorial: Crime task force needs more study
Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford expressed support for the proposal.
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER

It’s reasonable to want to take quick action to address a problem, particularly a problem involving crime.

But before Schenectady County supervisors vote to spend $2 million of taxpayer money on a crime task force and take police officers away from their respective communities to serve on it, they should take more time to evaluate the problem they want to solve and consider alternative solutions.

In the wake of a report showing that Schenectady County had the highest crime rate per 100,000 people in the state, county officials announced last week that they planned to set up a task force, with a particular focus on quality-of-life crimes like thefts and break-ins. Local police forces would be asked to contribute officers to the effort and would be reimbursed.

But before the county spends any money and redirects any officers away from their existing duties in their communities, officials need to zero in on whether this is the best allocation of manpower and taxpayer money to address the problem it’s intended to solve.

Maybe a task force focusing on quality-of-life crimes isn’t the best use of money and manpower.

Maybe they will find after further study that addressing the drug problem with extra money and manpower instead could help reduce the other types of crime. Or maybe they might find that addressing poverty or school truancy would be a better use of county resources than focusing on a few types of crimes.

Or maybe they’ll find that rather than make it a countywide effort, the details of the crime report will show that the greatest attention and lion’s share of resources should be devoted to a particular high-crime area, like the city of Schenectady.

Part of the $2 million expenditure, about $800,000, is projected to be spent on cameras, traffic readers and other technology.

Cameras stationed in high-crime areas can be a deterrent to crime and help police identify criminal suspects. And traffic readers can help police quickly identify suspects and speed up enforcement of warrants. But maybe more dash cameras for police cars or laptops for police vehicles would be more effective.

County officials also should look more closely into how other communities control their crime rates and evaluate similar task forces to determine their effectiveness.

In the meantime, police chiefs in the various communities in the county should continue, as we’re sure they already do, to look at their own efforts to determine the best use of resources.

Before spending this much taxpayer money and taking resources away from other anti-crime efforts, officials need evaluate whether this task force is really the best way to go.

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