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Lawrence Councilors Put Mayor On Notice – No More Public Safety Layoffs

The following letter was sent to Lawrence Mayor Willie Lantigua from members of the Lawrence City Council

 

The Honorable William Lantigua
Mayor, City of Lawrence
City Hall
200 Common Street
Lawrence, MA 01840

 

Dear Mayor Lantigua,

We are writing to emphasize that public safety is a core function of our government, and that the FY2012 budget must reflect this priority. Any further layoffs or demotion in the police and fire departments would adversely affect our citizens, and place them in greater peril. Therefore, we are unwilling to vote in favor of the City of Lawrence FY2012 budget should it include any layoffs or demotions in the police or fire departments.

Police Department -

The Lawrence Police Department has lost 50 positions since FY2010, 40 of those reductions took place in FY 2011. There have also been 12 demotions, thereby reducing the police department’s ability to provide much needed supervision. Crime is not a “perception” problem, nor is it “exaggerated”. Crime has increased 49% this fiscal year. Here are the most recent statistics comparing the first 8 months of FY2011 to the same eight months in FY2010:

* Auto theft: up 119%, from 306 stolen cars to 671

* Murder: up 80%, from 5 to 9

* Aggravated Assault: up 77% from 186 to 330

* Residential burglary: up 22%, from 337 house breaks to 410

These devastating police cuts have made Lawrence much less safe. Before July 2010, we targeted the underpinning of crime with great success. Now we are simply responding to crime. Residents will soon be impacted by higher insurance premiums, our middle class will seek less expensive and safer communities, and economic development and job creation will grind to a halt.

Fire Department – The Lawrence Fire Department had to shut down three fire stations, lay off 23 firefighters, and did not rehire firefighters to fill positions lost by attrition within a 36 month period. Fortunately, the Lawrence Fire Department was able to secure a federal grant to restore the firefighters to baseline levels. At it’s lowest levels, fire response times were dramatically impaired, and we relied too heavily on mutual aid from surrounding communities to provide basic protection to our 76,000 citizens. We cannot afford to reduce our firefighter levels below the baseline level. And cuts to the fire department will also have a chilling effect on any future federal aid, since it would fundamentally run counter to the spirit of the recent $6.6 SAFER grant.

Finally, according to Chapter 58 of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Acts and Resolve of 2010, the city may be in jeopardy of being governed by a Control Board should the City face “a fiscal crisis that poses an imminent danger to the safety of the citizens of the city and their property.” We look forward to working with you on the FY2012 budget and ensuring that we do not face a worse public safety crisis. We also hope that you will agree that any further reductions in public safety will bear more than simply economic costs.

 Sincerely,

 Lawrence, City Councilors Grisel Silva, City Councilor District B, Marc Laplante, City Councilor, District F

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ValleyPatriot

The Valley Patriot is a free monthly journal of news, commentary, and events, serving Northern Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire.

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