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Crime Skyrockets After City Bankruptcy

San Bernardino was the third city in California to file for bankruptcy last year. Within the past year it has descended from a model of crime reduction to a crime-plagued city.
January 24, 2013, 8am PST | Irvin Dawid
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The City of San Bernardino, population 211,000 [PDF] as of January, 2011, located 60 miles east of Los Angeles and seat of San Bernardino County, became the third city in 2012 to declare bankruptucy in California on July 10, following Stockton and Mammoth Lakes.  Ian Lovett writes how "residents here are confronting a transformed and more perilous city" from one that was no less than a model for its crime prevention programs just over a year ago.   

After violent crime had dropped steadily for years, the homicide rate shot up more than 50 percent in 2012 as a shrinking police force struggled to keep order in a city long troubled by street gangs that have migrated from Los Angeles...

A little over a year ago, this city’s falling crime rate was a success story. An aggressive gang intervention effort helped cut the homicide rate by nearly half since the 2005 peak, and in 2011 the program was held up by theNational League of Cities as a model for other cities to follow.

Stockton, Calif., which filed for bankruptcy in June, has followed a similarly grim path into insolvency, logging more homicides last year than ever before. In Vallejo, Calif., which filed for bankruptcy in 2008, cuts left the police force a third smaller, and the city became a hub for prostitution.

Mayor Patrick Morris explains that the dire finances of his city is causing him to consider dismantling the already down-sized police department and relying on the County of San Bernardino sheriff department.

Surprisingly, there have been some unexpected benefits. Lovett writes that with the city unable to perform many of its traditional duties, neighborhood watch groups have increased. In addition, citizens have volunteered with duties such as park maintenance, maintaining animal shelters. However, less affluent areas have not seen the same level of citizen involvement.

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Published on Monday, January 14, 2013 in The New York Times
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