Friday, March 7, 2014
Population Growth, Punitive Criminal Justice System, Creative Class Partying Strain Arlington's Public Service Agencies
County Board's second budget work session was with Arlington's public service agencies yesterday - Police Department, Fire Department, Sheriffs Office, and Emergency Communications Center. Bottom line on their operations is that all are strained because of Arlington's population growth (variously estimated at between 14,000 and 21,000 since the 2010 Census), increased Creative Class partying, and a Criminal Justice System that is becoming more punitive.
The FY 15 Budget will add only a few new full-time employees to the Arlington Police Department, Fire Department, Sheriff's Office, and Emergency Communications Center. All three agencies have resorted to overtime and flexible resource allocation to meet demands for service and maintain federal and state accreditation. The Sheriff's Office is experiencing an acute shortage of staff and is resorting to inmate lockdowns to reduce staff overtime. Emergency Communications Center has gone to 8 and 10 hour shifts and flexible scheduling to meet residents' calls for service. Creative Class evening and weekend partying in the Ballston-Rosslyn corridor has cut into the Police Department's budget for other services. The Fire Department is planning to offer enhanced medical services at incident and accident sites rather than transport persons with minor injuries to a hospital.
There was no interest by the County Board, ECC, Police Department, Sheriff's Office, or Fire Department in exploring ways to reduce their work load by decriminalizing behavior like marijuana use. Nor was there any discussion about effects of future population growth on public service agencies. The County Board (especially Chairman Fisette) was generally unsympathetic to requests for more full-time employees by Arlington's public service agency managers.