Editorials

Maybe flights from MidAmerica could drop nets on fleeing criminals

Where have all St. Clair County’s deputies gone? Budget cuts. Where has all the county’s money gone? Flights of fancy. If only planes could catch crooks.
Where have all St. Clair County’s deputies gone? Budget cuts. Where has all the county’s money gone? Flights of fancy. If only planes could catch crooks. Photo illustration

St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson isn’t happy about his budget for 2017. You shouldn’t be either.

Back in 2011, St. Clair County’s sheriff handled his responsibilities with 207 employees. By 2015 that number dropped to 185.

But the number you likely care about most is not bailiffs or administration or jail workers. You care about patrol deputies — the person you call when you’ve been burglarized or think there’s someone breaking in downstairs.

The sheriff had 76 workers assigned to patrol in 2011. They lost a dozen deputies by 2015. The 2016 budget was a 10 percent cut and will hold steady in 2017. Retirees are not being replaced.

“There’s no room to hire extra personnel or any of these types of things,” Watson said.

You can hear what’s coming next: St. Clair County needs that 1 percent public safety sales tax that’s on the April 4 ballot.

Good luck with that, Sheriff Watson. Voters already turned down a one-quarter cent sales tax to build a new jail in 2014. They were more likely to hand over a penny on a $4 purchase for bricks and mortar than they will be to give a penny on a $1 for operating expenses. Plus, voters have no guarantees of corresponding property tax relief or that the money will put more deputies on the road.

St. Clair County Chairman Mark Kern has no business asking for more money to halt the public safety cuts for which he and the County Board are responsible. The cash is already in the budget. They just need to prioritize deputies chasing crooks rather than an airport chasing passengers or a single-city election board chasing dead voters.

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