Must fight crime effectively

February 4, 2014 

The police departments in Alorton, Brooklyn, East St. Louis and Washington Park have such a dismal track record that a new U.S. Department of Justice study suggests shutting them down and starting over with one centralized department.

The study notes a major obstacle: local officials' desire for continued autonomy. Well, autonomy isn't doing anything to keep the public safe.

* The violent crime rate in these communities is nine times the rate for Illinois.

* The homicide rate is 11 times the state rate.

Compounding the problems, the report said a widespread culture of corruption among police department staff and elected officials has hampered efforts to bring about sustainable change.

The Justice Department believes that replacing the departments with a single new one would have a "significant and sustainable impact on crime over time."

That has to be the priority rather than failed local autonomy.

State's Attorney Brendan Kelly notes another obstacle: funds aren't available to combine the departments into one. But before dismissing the idea, let's see a detailed cost analysis to figure out what change is possible.

These communities are the front door to the metro-east, and the violent crime in them puts lives at risk, stunts jobs and economic opportunities and is a drag on all of St. Clair County.

Patching the problem isn't good enough. Our county's future depends on implementing a significant, sustainable fix.

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