Editorial: Salisbury needs its own police force
In 2010, Salisbury’s two-man police force quit, citing a hostile working environment. Since then, residents have relied on state police and neighboring towns to respond to traffic accidents and all complaints, great and small. The time has come for voters to put an end to this public safety experiment.
As residents throughout New Hampshire become more and more vocal about rising property taxes, the urge to cut budgets grows. There is little doubt that in Salisbury, spending $12,000 to cover dispatch, outside details and the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program looked significantly more attractive than $64,000 to reinstate the police department. But there are social costs to consider, too.
Earlier this year, Hill Police Chief David Kratz explained it to the Monitor this way: “I think local departments get to know the characters, you build a little trust and you can do a lot of preventative law enforcement that doesn’t come from a purely reactive police department.”
State police try to make connections with residents and business owners in Salisbury, but there is no substitute for a police officer who is fully invested in the community. When an officer is a familiar and friendly face, residents feel more empowered to pass on tips and raise concerns – and children who have a personal relationship with the police are more likely to respect and appreciate the work they do.
To rely on the state police is also to tempt fate in terms of response times. What if there was a significant public safety issue in Salisbury at the same time as a major incident on Interstate 93 between Exits 16 and 17? It’s not difficult to imagine a perfect storm of events that would leave Salisbury with a gap in coverage.
The problem with many budget cuts is there is a tremendous amount of finger-crossing. The next time Salisbury voters are presented with a proposal to reinstate the police department, they would be wise to run through worst-case scenarios instead of embracing a “so far, so good” mentality.
If voters can’t justify a police force for a population of less than 1,400, they should at the very least explore a regional police force with neighboring towns. While not an ideal solution, it would still be preferable to the “Who’s available?” method of policing the town has now.
New Hampshire communities have no problem rising up against physical threats to rural charm, but there is much less outrage when it comes to the erosion of the social components of small-town life, like the loss of a police force. The state’s tax structure is a heavy burden on homeowners, but residents of Salisbury and other small communities need to look at the whole picture when making decisions about what they no longer need.