By BRIAN BURRIS
As I read the article “Urban Initiative Yields Sharp Increase In Local Traffic Tickets” from the January 10 edition of this newspaper, I found myself thinking about how the main issue with the new traffic enforcement is the same as many other areas of concern with our community. In this article it eludes to the fact that the dramatic increase in citations is a direct result in LVMPD command staff implementing an overarching solution to our rural community where a problem never existed. This has created a solution for a non-existent problem while ignoring what has made this community what it is when it comes to our law enforcement family.
One of the great things about our officers in this community is the fact that they use a community-centric policing policy. This method of policing involves community interaction with officers to create a safe and effective law enforcement environment. This often allows for quick resolutions to problems that arise within our community. The model in fact is so effective LVMPD command staff has implemented the tactic in many high crime areas in the Las Vegas valley with great results.
The implementation of added emphasis on traffic enforcement at the direction of Sheriff Lombardo has, in my opinion, jeopardized the community policing model in our valley; all so he can keep his campaign promise to the large voter base of Las Vegas.
If the current rate of citations were to continue, our local Metro officers will write around 15 tickets for every hundred residents in the valley this next year. If that seems low when we look at tickets per household the numbers limb to a citation for 68 of every 100 households. This would be in addition to the citations NHP, BLM, and tribal police issue.
Now I understand that many of these citations are not issued to our residents but they are issued to a variety of people traveling in and around our community. But even a fraction of those numbers can dramatically change the feeling of people in our community toward our law enforcement community.
Just imagine for a minute a citizen that would normally have open interactions with our officers receives a citation that costs him both time and money to take care of. Do you think that individual is going to be as open with the officers after that? Chances are a percentage would be upset and less interactive with the officers in the future. Slowly that erodes the community policing in the valley; all so we can maintain the standards set forth by a disconnected urban command staff.
I think our officers in the valley are some of the best around and they serve our community well while in my opinion having one of the most difficult jobs in the police department. Imagine making an arrest on Monday and having the person you arrested behind you in the grocery store on Friday. This is a reality for our officers yet they serve our community distinction day in and day out under the supervision of a Sergeant that has done an excellent job and assembled an amazing group of officers. However, the decisions made 60 miles away for our community have a dramatic impact on how our community is run.
The central decision making is not only affecting how our officers interact with us but it touches almost every aspect of our community services. Our fire district is looking at severing ties with the Clark County Fire Department as we speak. The reason for this is they are unable to provide the level of service they feel is appropriate for our community. This is not because the CCFD and their command staff are not competent, but because they are busy running an urban fire department with an extremely high call volume and they are set up to handle this type of environment. Our rural fire district requires a different set of standards and abilities to provide effective emergency service for our community.
We currently have an extremely dedicated staff of capable firefighters and EMTs that have often had their hands tied by the bureaucracy of a centralized command staff of one of the best urban fire departments in the nation. Moving the decision-making closer to home will create a more effective and efficient service for our community. This also allows locals to make decisions that will affect them rather than leaving that decision to those that have little knowledge of what the needs and desires of our community.
Our school district has often been found to be out of line with the desires of our community as well. The decentralization of power that was the subject of legislative action has been proven to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors. The power certainly is not seated in the local community and our recourse in disputes with our elected official is non-existent as our rural representation is an elected official that is put into office by a large urban voting block that has little resemblance to our community values and needs.
While our representation from the county level has certainly improved with the change of representation in the past couple of years; for many it continues to fall short of addressing our concerns as a community. If you go to the library there is a survey that was conducted in 2005, that lists the concerns and desires of our community. If you were to do a survey today I would venture to say the wants, needs and concerns are the same as they were in 2005. Almost none of them have been addressed. This leads to a community that feels disenfranchised by our elected officials.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that our voter base is grossly outnumbered by the urban vote from the Las Vegas valley. In my opinion we are in a much better spot than we have been in the past as at least this commissioner attempts to follow the desires of the community and often follows town board recommendations. The issue is our commissioner has the task of governing a large mostly urban district that requires a lot of time and energy and our community represents such a small segment of her district that, by nature, we often feel like we are on the back burner.
Now you may ask what the solution is to this issue. First as a community we must take a more active role in our community. As a member of the town board I can tell you it is a rare occasion that we see more than a couple of community members present at our town board meetings. This means the only voices that are heard are often those of the town board members. That ensures nothing more than the desires of the board members are realized and these may or may not be the desires of the community. Now, when the community comes out and stands with a collective voice there is no question as to what the desires of the community are. As a town board member my job is to ensure the desires of the community are reflected in all of our decision making.
It is also important to bring the decision making to our backyard whenever possible. The separation from the Clark County Fire department is a perfect opportunity to do just that. This will allow our community to elect a fire board of members of our community where as today the local fire board is only advisory to the true fire board which is made up of the Clark County Commissioners.
The most effective governance is always that which is closest to the people. So in my opinion it is up to us as a community to stand up and fight for the representation we desire.
Brian Burris is a Moapa Valley resident and currently serves on the Moapa Valley Town Advisory Board.