Police warn of rise in crime if jobs are lost

A Zurich city police officer (left) hands over a woman who has been arrested to the cantonal police Keystone

Police in Zurich have criticised a proposal to shed as many as 200 jobs within the force, saying it could lead to a rise in crime across the canton.

This content was published on April 27, 2005 minutes

The warning came after the cantonal authorities announced that the layoffs would form part of a wide-ranging package of public-spending cuts.

Peter Reinhard, president of the cantonal police union, said crime prevention in Zurich would become a "joke" if the cuts were implemented.

The chief of police in the canton has also publicly protested against the plans.

In a recent interview with the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper, Peter Grütter warned that the loss of 200 jobs would have a serious impact on public safety.

The proposal to cut the jobs is one element of a package of measures agreed by the cantonal government to help reduce the public deficit.

Stretched resources

The plan foresees cutting 200 of the 1,700 cantonal police-force jobs over the next four years.

According to Grütter, the cutbacks would lead to the abandonment of some areas of police work.

Cantonal police would no longer be in a position to assist their Zurich city counterparts in monitoring criminal activity along the notorious Langstrasse red-light district.

Grütter warned that his officers would most likely have to drop their tough stance against the illegal trade in narcotics, adding that a likely consequence would be a return to an open drugs scene in the city and surrounding area.

Police officials have expressed concern that the cutbacks may also affect their ability to respond quickly to robberies and traffic accidents. Speed checks on main roads in the canton would in future only be carried out in a limited number of areas.

Rise in crime

News of the cutbacks comes less than two months after figures revealed a significant rise in the number of violent crimes committed in canton Zurich in 2004.

Acts of violence rose by 27 per cent last year, while crimes such as murder, serious bodily injury and assault more than doubled to 987.

"The spiral of violence is continuing to rise," said Marcel Suter of Zurich cantonal police when the statistics were published in February.

The increase in crime and threat of a reduction in the number of police officers comes as Zurich, along with many other cantons across the country, struggles to balance the budget and work out how to stop a multi-million franc deficit from spiralling out of control.

Critics – including trade-union officials - argue that the cantonal and federal governments are becoming increasingly obsessed by the need to cut costs and complain that public services and jobs are being put under unnecessary pressure.

Blame game

But political analyst Hans Hirter told swissinfo that the authorities could not be held responsible for the strain on public finances.

"All they are doing is carrying out the task of trying to balance the books," he said.

"On a superficial level you could say that it is the politicians who are to blame for putting the issue of saving money high on the agenda.

"[Having said that], you can’t ignore the fact that the general public – and here I’m talking about Swiss voters – has shown a great deal of reluctance to give the state more money [whenever asked to do so at the ballot box]."

Hirter points to the fact that recent votes at both a federal and cantonal level have shown that the Swiss are not in favour of increasing taxes to prop up the state coffers.

"Frankly it’s a bit rich of people to protest... against cost-cutting measures if they are not prepared to consider paying more taxes to help meet these costs."


In brief

The authorities in Zurich have announced plans to shed 200 of the 1,700 jobs at the cantonal police force.

The proposal has been criticised by police officers and the unions, who warn of a rise in crime if the cuts are implemented.

The head of the cantonal police force said his officers would not longer be able to carry out certain duties.

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