Archives for August 7, 2012

Everybody Who’s Overcome the Parochial Politics Likes Police Regionalization

Andrew George continues killing it on police regionalization. Here is a new article where he looks at examples of regional policing in the LV and New Jersey. Basically, everybody with experience being part of a regional police department has good things to say about it, but there are a few instances of parochial skirmishes:

Communities who form regional police forces can wind up with better trained officers at a lower cost — if they can sacrifice local control and work well with their neighbors.

That’s the sentiment from two community leaders connected with local regional police forces.

Five Slate Belt municipalities are evaluating whether to regionalize by combining the police departments of Bangor, Pen Argyl, Wind Gap, Washington Township and Plainfield Township. Support for the plan is brewing among local officials.
Stroudsburg is a member of the Stroud Area Regional Police Department with East Stroudsburg and Stroud Township.

Stroudsburg mayor Charles Baughman said regional police forces add a layer of governance through police commissioners, and municipalities’ individual identities may get lost. However, those losses are offset by increased manpower, superior training and better available resources.

Funding questions need to be answered before a force is formed, he said.

This is why I think a County-level force is best. When you try to do it with a handful of municipalities, somebody’s inevitably going to end up paying a little more, or worry if they’ll get the same coverage. Hanover Twp says this isn’t an issue in reality, but some dudes are inevitably going to act like babies about which municipal chief gets to be The Big Chief, who gets to have the Most Special Department Headquarters, etc.

With a County force, there’d just be so many municipalities covered that these territorial skirmishes would never really rise to the level of actually threatening the existence of the regional department. It would get sorted out through representative politics on the County board. The political bond wouldn’t be as fragile.

Who Cares if Red Light Cameras “Pay for Themselves”?

Nobody asks if a human police officer pays for himself, in terms of the revenue he brings in from speeding tickets. That’s not the point. The point is to reduce law breaking.

So why is AAA trying to impose this standard on red light cameras? The relevant question is whether paying an equivalent number of police officers to sit at busy intersections all day would also result in a 50% drop in violations, for the same amount of money:

The TAC report also shows that violations from red light cameras drop off quickly — with as much as a 50 percent reduction in violations in only one year.

As intersections get safer, though, less revenue is coming in.

That says to me that the cameras are doing their job well, and are therefore worth paying for. Always good to try to bring down the costs of course, and one way to do that would be to let whole Counties buy the red light cameras, rather than just individual municipalities. They’ll be able to buy more and bring the price per camera down, and they’ll be buying from a bigger tax base.

The cameras look even better when you consider the opportunity cost. Sitting at intersections all day is a terrible use of human police officers’ time. The opportunity cost of paying humans to sit at intersections is quite high, when they could otherwise be doing more of the things that only human police officers can do – going after murderers, drug traffickers, vandals, burglars and other lawbreakers.

Finally, I often notice that conservatives, such as the folks at PA Independent, don’t like to think about these things as part of a global budget. I wear two hats – a taxpayer hat and a consumer hat. I spend some money on public goods and I spend some money on private goods. There is interaction between these things. Spending some more money on some public goods can save me money on the private goods I buy, and vice versa.

If some thing causes me to lose money when I am wearing my taxpayer hat, but then saves me even more money when I am wearing my consumer hat, I am better off. Simply pointing out that people might lose money as taxpayers is not a useful point, in and of itself. You’ve only got a point if you can show that people are worse off as taxpayers and as private consumers.

If red light cameras reduce accidents, that’s money that people are then saving on auto repairs. If a bunch of people don’t have to waste money repairing their cars, maybe they spend that money taking their families out to eat, buying clothes, going to a movies or concerts, etc. Human welfare improves when we don’t have to waste money on car repairs, and can spend it on things we actually want to spend it on.

(Thanks: Eric Boehm)

Poptart Pete – Ithaca

Some of the best music I’ve heard in a while comes from this guy Jamal Smith, a young skateboarder from Philly using the moniker Poptart Pete. Very relaxing instrumental stuff. 48 tracks over on his Soundcloud page.

How to Make the Allentown Arena Cheaper

Don’t build the two underground parking garages:

Because the Hamilton Street office building and the Seventh Street hotel will be built on top of the arena, the outer edges of the arena complex will, in essence, serve as the first three floors of those buildings.

In addition, those two buildings will share the arena foundation and the complex’s two underground parking garages — one of more than 600 spaces along Linden Street and another of 125 spaces on Hamilton Street.

Underground parking is crazy expensive to build, and it’s not clear that there isn’t right now enough parking capacity downtown to serve the new buildings.

If there really isn’t, then there’s a profit opportunity for a private company to build a new parking garage.

(Thanks: Matt Assad)

It’s All the Allentown Metro

Here’s one for Chris Cocca:

@skraus: First Lady to campaign at “in the Allentown area” at Moravian Thursday: Outside the LV, it’s all just Allentown:

One of the more persuasive arguments for regional moneys being collected to rehab Allentown is that if outside businesses and potential residents are under the impression that Allentown sucks, that impression extends to the whole LV. Alan Jennings put this point well when he noted that tourists don’t visit regions to see their suburbs.