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OPINION
September 23, 2005
Cairo needs more officers, not fewer
By CARLA THORNQUIST

Cairo Police squad car A KFVS Channel 12 news release today states that Mayor Farris wants to stop supporting Riverlore and cut the number of police officers. He also mentioned switching to a volunteer fire department.

The news release states that three Cairo City Council members called for a special meeting Thursday night, but none of the six council members showed up.

Council members representing citizens in a city that is predicted to be completely abandoned by the year 2020, must show up for meetings. It is urgent that they, and the mayor, seek solutions immediately. If they do not attend meetings, nothing can be accomplished. On the other hand, a mayor should not waste time nor incite anger by devoting precious meeting time to recounting alleged offenses of past administrations, as Mayor Farris did at the last city council meeting.

According to KFVS, Farris calls buying the mansion a "Mistake of monumental proportions." The mayor should consider one of Cairo's monumental selling points: her history. Farris said Riverlore's upkeep is $35,000.00 a year. Is that amount offset by revenues from Riverlore? What is Riverlore's worth as an avenue of advertising for the city? After all, Riverlore brings tourists to the city.

If Riverlore is, indeed, a money loser, then a buyer should be found.

Farris also wants a committee to look into turning the Fire Department into a volunteer department. Aren't volunteer fire department's usually found in tiny towns? Towns with populations of 1,000? I can't imagine this town without a paid fire department. Seems like a monumental disaster waiting to happen. Shouldn't we be looking for ways to increase our fire department rating, so that businesses will consider relocating here?

Farris' comments regarding the Police Department are disheartening. My biggest reservation about moving here was Cairo's dismal crime rate. I believe Cairo has one of the worst crime rates in the state of Illinois, yet the mayor is contemplating reducing the number of police officers.

According to the KFVS report, Farris said, " 'we need only a handful of experienced and trained officers and dispatchers to adequately protect our citizens.' When Heartland News asked him if that means some officers could be without a job, he said, 'that is correct.' "

The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority reports that the number of violent Index offenses reported to the police decreased 58 percent in Alexander County between 1994 and 2003, from 240 to 101. The report adds that between 1994 and 2003, the number of property Index offenses reported to the police in Alexander County decreased 46 percent, from 450 to 244.

Yet our crime rate (2003: 7,891.0 per 100,000) is still out of the ballpark. From 2002 to 2003 Cairo's Uniform Crime Index dropped by almost half. At the same time, drug arrests increased by 150%.

With crime rates coming down, we should aid the efforts of the police.

Below are some graphs from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority comparing Alexander County's crime rates with other rural counties.

Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority

Total Violent Index Offenses

Index Arrest Rates

I hope that the mayor is not intending to rely upon sending most offenders to the Illinois Department of Corrections, where the state picks up the tab, because that comes around to bite ya upon their release.

"In SFY 2004, Alexander Countyís rate of commitments to the IDOCís Juvenile Division of 482 commitments per 100,000 juveniles was more than twice the rate of 228 commitments per 100,000 juveniles from the other rural counties."

DOC isn't the answer, employment is.

In two months here, four of my kids' bicycles were stolen, numerous gunshots were heard at night, a police officer told my kids that it's not safe to ride up to the pop machines at Supervalu after dark, a man was shot one afternoon, and a stranger tried to talk several young girls into getting into his car.

We need more police officers to continue reducing crime.

Cairo won't change if we hide her flaws. She is a fascinating city, rich with history and natural beauty. And the residents are warm and compassionate.

I don't mean to speak ill of the mayor, I know little about him. I'm merely addressing these specific concerns: Riverlore, the suggested volunteer fire department and the impending police department cuts.

Please use the Port of Cairo forums for discussion and enlightenment. I am new in town and would love to learn more about these issues. Most important to me, I want to know what efforts are being made to bring jobs to Cairo.

Correction: In the article, I asked 'if the dept. became all volunteer, wouldn't the rating go down.' On a scale of 1-10, the higher numbers mean lower ratings. I misunderstood how the rating system works.

Graphs from www.icjia.state.il.us

On the web:
KFVS Channel 12
Illinois State Police
Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority

 
© 2005 The Cairo Gate