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EDITORIAL: Metro rightly resumes responding to noninjury accidents

Anyone who’s driven on Las Vegas streets for any length of time has likely either witnessed or been involved in a traffic crash.

That’s usually traumatic enough. But last March, Metro Police stopped sending officers to the scene of crashes where no one was injured or suspected of driving under the influence. Instead, the department said it wanted to concentrate its resources on bad behavior such as speeding or aggressive driving, the root cause of many traffic crashes.

But now, Metro has once more begun responding to noninjury accidents. The policy change was a campaign promise by Sheriff Joe Lombardo last year, and it was made easier by the Clark County Commission’s decision to pass a small increase in the sales tax — the More Cops tax — in order to hire police officers.

We opposed the increase in the sales tax; police services are properly funded through property taxes. But the city and county — which jointly fund Metro — have held the line on property tax increases and remain unwilling to devote an increased portion of their municipal budgets to hiring more officers.

We are troubled by what appears to be an all-too-common pattern in government: If taxpayers and their representatives refuse to approve ever larger budgets, bureaucrats don’t make cuts. Instead, they simply suspend or eliminate programs that taxpayers need or want, until the public demands the restoration of the denied service, even at the cost of increased taxes. Metro officials denied that was their motive or intent, but it certainly looks suspicious to the public.

The increase, however, was much smaller than it could have been, and took much longer to pass through a divided Clark County Commission. Chairman Steve Sisolak allowed that a return to the accident-response policy of old was his priority in the negotiations over the sales tax increase. “This was one of the main things that I wanted,” he told the Review-Journal’s Wesley Juhl. “I hope people appreciate it.”

And they undoubtedly will. Despite the wrangling over the tax issue, we applaud the police department for returning to its former policy. In a day and age where road rage is an everyday occurrence, where many drivers break the law requiring them to carry an auto insurance policy or where an objective viewpoint is needed to sort out what happened in a crash, having a cop at the scene is invaluable and reassuring. Sheriff Lombardo deserves great credit for joining a group whose membership is all too slim: politicians who have actually kept their word.

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