Shift focus to bolster rural police

I spent Monday in a milling crowd of people cheering the inauguration, yet I

wasn’t nervous at all.

Why would a small-town girl feel safer in the middle of a crowded city than when she returns home to her rural neighborhood?

I bet if you threw a rock in any direction, you would hit no less than three police officers. Meanwhile, in my small hometown, like a lot of economically depressed areas, the police departments have been cut to a skeleton force.

We are ignoring security in our rural communities while we are spending millions of dollars on security for the presidential inauguration.

It has been made quite clear in the news recently that security needs to be amplified in our rural towns.

Recent mass shootings an Aurora, Colo., movie theater and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut reveal that security at the rural level is not adequate. Both shootings took place in rural neighborhoods. The presence of law enforcement officers in local communities needs to be a priority now more than ever.

Inadequate security was not a problem for Washington D.C. in preparation of the presidential inauguration. U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance Gainer assured us that there has never been an assassination attempt at any inauguration, and they were going to keep it that way. Washington, D.C., was locked up tighter than Fort Knox. Roads around the Capital, Mall and White House were closed to vehicles on Inauguration Day along with some of the Metro Stations.

I wish it was that way in smaller communities.

When I go to a movie theater, I have never seen police officers inside or patrolling outside the theater, and when I attended school in the Northern Cambria School District, there was one police officer for a few years when a special program funded the police officer in the school. The program funding stopped, and so did the extra security in my school.

Following the recent violent shootings in Sandy Hook, many schools are discussing reinstating this program if funding can be secured.

Budget cuts are behind the lack of security in rural Pennsylvania, but that is not a problem when this country has to put on a big show like the inauguration for a world audience. For the presidential inauguration, public money is available, and because it is being used for security purposes, the federal government will reimburse the District of Columbia.

The reimbursement was $44 million for the 2009 inauguration. And that amount does not even include Secret Service and military personnel who were present.

Does a tiny town in Pennsylvania need to host an event like the presidential inauguration to get adequate police patrols? Cases like the Aurora movie theater shooting and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting have given small towns reasons to fear that they might be next.

Our local lawmakers must come back from the pomp of the inaugural and see our circumstances. They need to forget partisan bickering and concentrate on the obvious.

We can no longer do nothing and think the children in our schools and people in public places will be safe simply due to geography.

Alexis Waksmunski is a sophomore at Juniata College and a graduate of Northern Cambria High School.