Pct. 4 residents concerned about constable layoffs

The Harris County budget crunch is forcing area Constable's offices to make cuts. One of the largest areas is facing big changes, and the cuts have people worried about patrols in their neighborhoods.

March 26, 2011 8:14:16 PM PDT
The Harris County budget crunch is forcing area Constable's offices to make cuts. One of the largest areas is facing big changes, and the cuts have people worried about patrols in their neighborhoods. Meyer Park is a popular place in the Spring area where families come to relax and watch their kids play, but now parents are worried they'll have to watch for something else.

The park lies in the large territory covered by the Precinct 4 Constable's Office, which announced dozens of positions will be cut because money is tight.

Neighbors were surprised at how much budget cuts would be felt in their own neighborhoods.

"I think that's terrible. I think it's terrible. It's a terrible situation. They should have been paid more," parent Lorrie Blair said.

At Precinct 4, there will be nearly 100 employees -- mostly deputies -- laid off. That means less patrol, less presence and less confidence in safety among neighbors.

"I hope they can find a different way to cut the budget because cutting our officers is the wrong thing to do," Pct. 4 resident Christian Alvarado said.

Constable Ron Hickman says he's lost sleep over how much he will have to cut while trying to maintain safety in northwest Harris County.

"That's one of the most significant challenges we have is how to provide a continuing level of service of any value with reduced resources," Hickman said. "But lets face it, these are tough times and we all have to tighten that belt and look for ways to be efficient in what we do."

Of the eight precincts in Harris County, it is Pct. 4 that will have the most sizeable cuts. So far, 97 employees have been laid off. Thats approximately 20 percent of their workforce.

There is also a 3 percent pay cut across the board, including the constable, and Pct. 4 has canceled contracts with three school districts.

The largest contract is with the Cy-Fair school district. Hickman says he dedicates 38 deputies for patrol. However, Cy-Fair is already struggling with their own budget cuts and layoffs.

Meanwhile, keeping an eye on neighborhood safety is something neighbors say they will have to consider a new priority.

"Yeah, it will be a little less safe. Like, at night we come walking. Exercising at night it might be a little less safe," neighbor Porschea Williams said.

All Harris County precincts are facing cuts. Pct. 1 is laying off 50 workers, Pct. 5 laid off 18 employees and also cut hours. Pct. 8 cut 12 employees. The other precincts are also making cuts by cutting hours and having some employees take furloughs.