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Paper Clips or Police? Budget Cuts Force Tough Choices

Do high gas prices scare you? You don’t know the half of it.

   Police Officer leading handcuffed man to car, rear view, night, USA
Photo: Rex Ziak | Getty Images
   Police Officer leading handcuffed man to car, rear view, night, USA

After having their gasoline budget cut by $10,000, or about 14 percent, Police in one North Carolina town suggested they may have to stop responding to some 911 calls and stop investigating misdemeanors — because they just don’t have the gas to get there.

Misdemeanors, to refresh your memory, include some traffic offenses, drug possession, some robberies, stalking and ASSAULT.

Call me crazy but I would like to know that if I'm ever being robbed or assaulted, someone with a gun is on his way.

The possible cutbackswere outlinedin the News Observer:

  • Police might start ignoring 911 calls from hotels and payphones when callers hang up because a high percentage of them tend to be “errors in dialing.”
  • They might stop responding to burglar alarms because a lot of those are false alarms.
  • Officers would probably stop patrolling the western and southern parts of town since most crimes there are nonviolent.

These were likely just extreme bargaining tactics by the police department to get the city to wake up and find the money in their paperclip or picnic budget to keep officers fighting crime of all kinds. If you’ve ever been hit up by your local police benevolent association for a donation, you know that these guys, who deal with criminals all day long, are like the Navy Seals of negotiating and your ninth-grade debate skills are no match. They will reduce you to a blubbering puddle begging for your mommy over a $25 donation.

As it turns out, no one had to be reduced to crying like a little girl — the town agreed to take $30,900 out of the office-supply and equipment-repair budget. And, as you might've guessed, the police chief said he wasn't sure where the media got the idea that they were suggesting fighting less crime. (Page 123 of the chief's PowerPoint presentation, the News Observer points out.)

Glad the town finally wised up and took the offer it couldn't refuse.

Look, if this were a gangster movie, I'd say leave the gun, take the cannoli.

But when it comes to law enforcement, everyone knows — you take the gun, leave the paper clips.

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  • Cindy Perman is a writer at CNBC.com, covering jobs, real estate, retirement and personal finance.

  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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