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Instead of Scaling Down Parades, What If We Scaled Back on Police?

426772349_c44f171a90.jpgCops march in the St. Patrick's Day parade. Photo: Nat Bane/Flickr

When NYPD announced Monday that, effective April 1, city parades must be shortened in distance by 25 percent and may no longer exceed five hours -- period -- there was an understandable sense of disappointment. But since the move was framed as an unavoidable reality of lean times -- "The mayor has made it clear that New Yorkers can't afford a tax increase now, and we can't take our eyes off the ball when it comes to keeping crime low," said Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler -- electeds don't seem to be putting up much of an argument. After all, how you gonna enjoy the parade if you get shot, or blown up by terrorists?

According to NYPD, reducing parade sizes will save $3.1 million and help stave off cuts in "essential police services." But before New Yorkers accept as a fait accompli what amounts to another restriction on the public realm, here's a question they should ask: Rather than abridge events, why can't we cut back on police presence?

This issue has come up in relation to the puzzlingly short hours allotted to DOT's wildly popular Summer Streets. Said resident gadfly Marty Barfowitz last August:

I've heard that in Bogota, their Ciclovia event -- which takes placeevery Sunday over hundreds of kilometers of streets -- is mostlyofficiated by young people doing their national service requirement.

We're not about to say there's no need for cops at public events, but is it really a question of Puerto Rican pride (or Irish, or LGBT) vs. Al Qaeda? Are car-free streets that difficult to control compared to those teeming with auto traffic? Your thoughts, please.

Bonus: City Room is taking comments on what else could stand a 25 percent cut.

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