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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Friday, May 14, 2010

There are never 32 cops around when you need them

How many heavily armed law-enforcement officers does it take to arrest one gang member in Newburgh?

Thirty-two, apparently.

No, this isn't a twist on the old lightbulb jokes. It's a mathematical reality based on Thursday's crackdown on gang activity in the crime-infested Orange County city.

According to articles that appeared in the Freeman and other local newspapers, a total of 600 federal, state and local law enforcers participated in the citywide raids, which - despite authorities playing up the fact that there were 78 indictments in the crackdown - resulted in only 19 arrests. (Forty-four of those indicted were in custody already, and 15 remained at large.)

Six-hundred cops to arrest 19 bad guys? Seriously?

Look, I'm all for the overwhelming use of force to ensure police aren't wounded or killed by potentially armed suspects. And there's no way I'd expect only one or two officers to attempt arrests like the ones made on Thursday. Five cops per arrest, or perhaps even 10, would be appropriate. But a 32-1 ratio is just plain excessive, not to mention expensive. Heck, I've seen fewer than 32 cops respond to hostage situations in which the suspect was known to be armed and threatening someone.

Assuming, though, that the use of 600 cops in Thursday's operations can be justified, I can't help but wonder: Wouldn't it have been smarter to devote that amount of police staffing to patrolling Newburgh's troubled neighborhoods all along so the problem didn't become serious enough to warrant Thursday's action?



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