It's a dark and breezy night. A stranger follows you, echoes of his footsteps mingling with far off traffic. A driver passes but doesn't stop to help. At last, an oasis: You duck into a brightly lit Los Angeles Police Department station for safety. Alas, there's no one there. The front desk is unmanned.

This scenario is possible, and it would be brought to you by the Los Angeles city budget crisis, which is forcing the police department to come up with creative ways to get more badges on the streets. One way, says Chief Charlie Beck, is to stop putting cops — sometimes two at a time — behind the front desks of police stations at night.

“In the end, the way the public will feel it, there will be some reduced 'nice-to-have' services by the Los Angeles Police Department,'' Beck said Monday. “Property-damage only traffic accidents don't get investigated. Some of our desks won't be open at night. You may not be able to get police reports in a timely fashion.''

Eliminating a front-desk presence seems like a dicey proposition. The department has touted its front-desk areas as safety zones for people seeking to use ATMs and for children who feel they're in danger.

But the department is running $80 million behind the ball, with the fiscal year wrapping up at the end of June. Already, homicide detectives have complained that they're being taken off cases to conserve overtime.

-With reporting from Weekly wire services. Got news? Email us.

LA Weekly