Extension Educator, Community Economic Development
University of Illinois Extension Service
Imagine you are home alone and awakened from your sleep by a noise outside your window. It doesn’t sound like a “ghost” so you rule out calling Ghostbusters. So instead you dial 911. The dispatcher answers “911, what’s your emergency?” A few minutes later, an officer arrives at your door and gives you the all clear. So it appears to have been a false alarm, you feel a little foolish for calling the officer out in the middle of the night, but in reality you are relieved and will sleep much better knowing that help is only a phone call away.
Police officers play a central role in our law enforcement system. They respond to emergency calls, patrol the community, monitor criminal activity, issue tickets, make arrests, investigate crimes, and testify in court as needed. In many of Illinois’ small towns and rural communities, their duties don’t end there. 24/7/365, they may also be operating the local jail, providing court security, transporting prisoners, gathering evidence, investigating accidents, seizing methamphetamine laboratories, responding to armed robberies, and serving civil papers.
In addition, officers may be called on to handle a variety of other tasks including community relations, escorting funeral processions, leading the local parade through the downtown, responding to barking dogs, checking on elderly shut-ins, all while ensuring that the government office buildings are safe and secure.
For most rural departments, given the small tax base available to fund overall operations, these activities are being handled by a small number of officers as they balance staffing against the need for communications equipment, mandated trainings, uniforms, weapons, and vehicles. Therefore, there is no better time to remind the residents of Illinois that Spending Locally First ensures law enforcement will be there to protect and to serve.
The State of Illinois, and many or our municipalities and counties, especially those in the rural regions of the State, are experiencing unprecedented fiscal challenges. Stagnant or declining revenue streams as a result of buying patterns that no longer support local businesses, which generate tax revenues and provide local jobs, are plaguing our rural regions. This new reality is placing increased pressure on local governments and other taxing districts to provide essential services, such as police protection. The resulting dilemma for local governments is to identify new ways to balance the budget. This can mean increasing revenues (i.e. raising taxes), cutting expenses, or a combination of the two. Either way, rural residents lose, as they either pay higher taxes and/or have fewer services available.
Therefore, in the simplest of terms, the more money we spend locally and within our State, the more tax dollars we will generate to support our state, county, and municipal budgets, resulting in more resources to fund the Illinois State Police, our county sheriffs, and our city and village police departments.
Certainly, there may be “perceived” lower spending alternatives available online, or perhaps, just across the border in a neighboring state, but the reality is when you purchase items and pay sales taxes out of state, you are supporting their state, county, and municipal budgets, not ours.
University of Illinois Extension Educator Susan Odum says, “In a nut shell, if essential public services, such as police protection, are important to you, then shopping local SHOULD be important to you, because it provides the resources needed for maintaining law and order.”