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Soon the Cambridge police will patrol their East Cambridge zones sitting down instead of on their feet. Five shiny new patrol cars are replacing the foot beats in the interests of more efficient coverage of the area. When the plan was up before the City Council, one councilman termed it an "invitation to burglars, rapists, and thieves . . . to come into Cambridge, watch a prowl car go by, and then do their damage." Could be.

Other cities have tried to mechanize the foot patrolman with poor results. Cleveland tried it a few years back. Hoodlumism has been increasing ever since, until last year over 2,000 robberies, burglaries, street attacks, and rapes were reported. Inventors brought out whistles and small sirens which women could carry in their handbags. Fenn College offered a course in how to scream.

And now Cambridge has gone the same way. East Cambridge will see no more the kindly old neighborhood cop. No longer will the local patrolman help prevent crime by boosting some wayward youngster along the straight and narrow path. It is pretty difficult to boost someone from a moving car without knocking him down.

Vigilant though the prowl squad boys may be, they never get to know Mr. Brophy and his back troubles the way Patrolman O' Malley did. One day they may mistake Mr. Brophy for the hunched-over attacker slinking from the scene of the crime and all hell will break loose. As the Cambridge police chief admits, the personal touch will be lost.

Let's return Patrolman O'Malley to his old beat before it's too late.

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