By David Edwards | RawStory.com | Jul. 5, 2011
Crime is on the rise in one small Texas city because the police department has been padlocked and the officers sent home.
The city of Alto laid off its entire police force about two weeks ago because the city council completely cut the department's budget.
"They put a bulls-eye target on law enforcement -- police department -- and police department only," police chief Charles Barron told CBS News.
"We had to do something drastic," Councilman Jerry Flowers explained to Forbes. "The police department being a non-money-making entity, was the easiest to get rid of while we catch our breath and build up some cash."
The city is facing a $185,000 budget deficit due to declining property and sale tax revenues. To make matters worse, the town hasn't saved up to make the necessary repairs to a natural gas distribution plant.
"There have been accusations that the police department is not generating enough revenue," Barron said. "Well, police departments are not revenue generators."
The 1,300 residents will now have to wait up to 15 minutes for county sheriff deputies to respond to 911 calls. The five police officers dedicated to Alto had been able to respond in less than three minutes on average.
There is evidence that criminals are already targeting the city.
"In the last 24 hours, we've answered 18 calls in the county; seven of them were in Alto," Cherokee County Sheriff James Campbell remarked. "When you're sitting there needing help, it's a lifetime."
Last week, residents called law enforcement on four people allegedly attempting a bank robbery in the small town.
Deputies finally caught up with the suspects in the nearby town of Rusk. They were charged with aggravated robbery and evading arrest.