Photo: KYTX CBS
Alto, Texas is preparing for a crime wave, after the small East Texas town put its entire police force on furlough, the Wall Street Journal reports today.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 fear that crime will rise in the absence of a local police force. The town’s crime rate is already above the state average; there were 66 crimes in Alto last year, according to the WSJ, compared to 51 the previous year.
“Everybody’s talking about ‘bolt your doors, buy a gun,'” Alto Mayor Monty Collins told the WSJ.
Across the country, cash-strapped cities like Alto are making public safety cuts in the face of revenue losses and growing personnel costs. Small towns have found that law enforcement is easier to pass off to county or state agencies than other city services.
In Alto, reduced sales and property tax revenue, have tightened the city’s budget. City officials project a budget deficit of about $185,000 for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. The City Council was forced to choose between funding the police department and making much needed repairs on the city-owned natural gas distribution system, which generates most of the city’s revenue.
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