How Many Cops Does It Take To Make You Safe?

The crime rate in Notsosafe County is up. Houses are broken into on a regular basis. Assaults are on the rise. There’ve been two murders already this year and it’s only February. Citizens flock to the next county government meeting. Frank Neverhappy stands up and shouts, “We never see a police car in our neighborhood. Why not? I’ll bet they’re all down at Billy Lee’s Donut Shop drinking coffee all night!” Mrs. Johannah, a lady from a neighborhood that’s suddenly experienced an increase in vandalism and gang activity chimes in, “Hire more cops. What’re you doing with my tax money, anyway? Use it to make us safe.”

Well, Mrs. Johannah, it’s not quite that easy, especially for sheriff’s offices. Notsosafe County, like all counties across the country operate on a budget, and that budget is dictated by the local community and their tax base. In most areas, nearly 50% of that budget is for fire and safety, which translates to about 2.5 officers per 1,000 citizens. Now, that doesn’t mean that there’s one police officer per 500 people. No, that figure normally includes non-sworn personnel, such as dispatchers and other necessary support staff.

Even if the numbers allowed one officer per 500 citizens, that’s still quite a one-sided deal – advantage toward the citizen. Of course, not all of those 500 people are law-breakers, but these figures do not include out-of-towners who ride in after dark to create havoc in the normally sleepy communities of NotSoSafe County. Each time a little town holds an event like the annual Left Shoe Festival, thousands of people flock to the town to partake in the festivities, all wearing left shoes and sappy grins on their faces. But, the moment they start drinking and partying, the resulting problems belong to the 2.5 officer per 1,000 citizen police department. Now the odds are really stacked against the officers. In addition to keeping the Johannahs and Neverhappys safe, the officers must now devote much of their time corralling a bunch of drunks, who often do unmentionable things to good folks and their property.

So, with ShoeFest in town, the numbers rise to a figure more like 2.5 officers per four or five thousand shoe-crazed people. And, the number of law-breakers per thousand has also greatly increased.

Police administrators have had to become a little more creative in these tough economic times. Budgets have remained stagnate for 10 years, or more, in many places, yet costs and crime steadily rise. Some departments, in an effort to save on fuel costs, are requiring their patrol officers to park their cars for 30 minutes each shift. Others are cutting police positions. I just heard from a chief of police who is facing the difficult decision of cutting several police officers from his payroll. The sheriff in the same county has already dismissed 60 deputies within the past six months.

So, Mrs. Johannah and Mr. Neverhappy, unless you can dig into your bank accounts to help out, I’m afraid you’re stuck with half a cop to patrol your section of of the county. I suggest you buy a dog. I also suggest you be a little more lenient in your criticism of local law enforcement. They’re doing the best they can with what they’ve got, which ain’t much…

To give some idea of the number of police officers per population in Florida (2008 numbers):

South Daytona – Population 13,690……..Police officers 25

Daytona Beach – Population 63,642….Police Officers 241

Lake Helen – Population 2,742…..Police Officers 8

Volusia Sheriff – Population 498,036…..Police Officers 450

Remember, the number of officers must be divided by at least four to cover all shifts. This does not take into account the number of officers assigned to specialized divisions, such as detective, narcotics, SWAT, training, etc. The number of patrol officers on the street is actually much smaller per population than these figures reflect.

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Writers Police Academy

* FYI – If you have chance , please stop by Murderati. Cornelia Read invited me over there to grill me about the Writers’ Police Academy.

* Important Notice – We are very, very close to reaching capacity for the FATS training. So close, I can actually see the last seat in the class. Please register now to reserve your spot!

The Don Knotts Silver Bullet Novel Writing Contest is now open!

The Don Knotts Silver Bullet Contest Award winner will receive The Silver Bullet Award, free Writers’ Police Academy registration ($235 value), and have the opportunity to submit their entire manuscript to one of the judges (to be determined later based upon the genre and work itself). Additional prizes forthcoming. Here’s your chance to get your work in front of top agents and publishers! The contest is open to the general public and writers from all genres, not just academy registrants and mystery writers!

Please visit the Writers’ Police Academy website for details.

Contest judges are:

Annette Rogers, Acquisitions Editor of the Poisoned Pen Press, searches for new, unpublished mystery writers. Recent successes include Carolyn Wall SWEEPING UP GLASS, Jeffrey Siger MURDER ON MYKONOS, and Edward Ifkovic LONE STAR. In addition she evaluates and edits manuscripts, corresponds with writers and agents, and fends off Facebook friend requests. Rogers published a bestselling travel book on EGYPT-translated into six languages, wrote for O, The Oprah Magazine, and covered court hearings on the Mormon Bomber case for Time/Life. She has a Masters Degree in History and English.

Benjamin LeRoy is a founder of Tyrus Books-a publisher specializing in crime and dark literary fiction. Before starting Tyrus in July of 2009, he founded and ran Bleak House Books. He lives in Madison, WI where he works on his own writing and is endlessly fascinated with the history of baseball.

Elizabeth Pomada worked at David McKay, Holt Rinehart & Winston, and the Dial Press in New York City before moving to San Francisco in 1970 with her partner and husband, Michael Larsen. Together, they started Michael Larsen – Elizabeth Pomada Literary Agents in 1972. Since then, they have sold books from hundreds of authors to more than 100 publishers. Elizabeth is a member of the Association of Author’s Representatives, The Author’s Guild, ASJA, WNBA and co-founder with Michael of the San Francisco Writers Conference and the Writing for Change conference.

Kimberley Cameron began her literary career as an agent trainee at the Marjel de Lauer Agency in association with Jay Garon in New York. She worked for several years at MGM developing books for motion pictures. She was the co-founder of Knightsbridge Publishing Company with offices in New York and Los Angeles. In 1993 she became partners with Dorris Halsey of The Reece Halsey Agency, founded in 1957. Among its clients have been Aldous Huxley, William Faulkner, Upton Sinclair, and Henry Miller. She opened Reece Halsey North in 1995 and Reece Halsey Paris in 2006. Her associate Elizabeth Evans opened Reece Halsey New York in 2008, and in 2009 the agency became Kimberley Cameron & Associates.