Subscriber Discussion

Firefighters To Deter Crime?

In response to some recent shootings and robberies, Washington, D.C. is now stationing manned firetrucks in neighborhoods and on city blocks like they do police cars. The immediate and obvious question is: What's the point? What can firefighters do if they see a crime in progress other than have the police dispatched just like a citizen would? They don't have any police equipment (handcuffs, firearms, etc.). Has anyone ever seen a city try this as a crime deterrent?

not stationing

assuming "now stationing"

Yep fixed. So what do you think? Good idea? Bad idea? Have you seen this before?

Next, an incident will happen that will make them consider arming firefighters. And they say California is nuts?

It seems desperate. How is DC's budget? Are they in a deficit?

The Mayor's Budget for Fiscal Year 2014

"This proposal is the District of Columbia’s eighteenth consecutive balanced budget."

Good idea or bad idea depends on the costs. IMO, this could have a small positive impact on reducing petty crimes and just providing more "eyes on the street". If they're taking firefighters already on standby payroll and just having them hangout on some street corner instead of at the station house, then it's probably neutral at the worst and likely beneficial.

If they are paying for additional hours or overtime, then this seems like it wouldn't have a very good ROI.


In many Fire Departments, firefighters typically wait around at the fire station between calls. Not a bad thing, just the nature of the job. I would guess that at least part of the reasoning behind the move is that the firefighters are getting paid the same whether they are waiting in the fire station or on the street.

The danger here is to the firefighters themselves. There have been numerous instances of people shooting at firefighters.

Because conventional wisdom suggests one might use properly trained police officers to improve security and reduce crime, it seems there must be more than meets the eye to this policy.

One pathological example is Camden, NJ whos city police allegedly were unaffordable and not reasonably amenable to change. The force was disbanded and the county took over policing, ostensibly at a substantial cost savings.

I think you totally called this one, Brian. What are hourly rates for DC police vs fire? What are overtime payment and bonus policies? What are not-to-exceed annual or period hours? Whose rice bowl is being strengthened? Whose is being weakened?