Crime increase cited to argue for more cops

Gloversville officials are doing more than pondering a statistic showing a 60 percent rise in violen
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Gloversville officials are doing more than pondering a statistic showing a 60 percent rise in violent crimes from summer 2006 through last summer.

Mayor Tim Hughes, meeting with police officials Thursday to discuss a crime study compiled by Officer Tracy Green, said the statistics point to the need to add police officers to the force.

Hughes, who was already aware of the study this week when he advised the Common Council he would raise the hiring issue during discussions at the April 8 work session, said as part of his presentation that Green will share his findings on rising crime in the city.

Acting Police Chief Edgar Beaudin said while he was not surprised to see the data on Gloversville’s experience, it was noteworthy that comparable area cities recorded slight decreases in crime during the same one-year period. Violent crimes in Montgomery County fell 5.4 percent, in Saratoga by 11.9 percent and in Warren County by 13 percent. During that period, violent crimes statewide fell 8.5 percent.

Violent crimes consist of most major felonies, including property crimes, such as burglary, but do not include drug crimes.

Green said he has been working on the study for more than a month and said his work is continuing. The 2007 statistics for specific crimes are not yet available from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, the source of the data.

Green, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, said he began the study because he was concerned that the current force of 32 officers — already depleted for various reasons by three officers — is being overwhelmed.

Capt. James Lorenzoni said the department has been responding to an average of 20,000 calls per year for the past four years.

With only 16 uniformed officers available over five shifts to handle the initial calls, Green said officers are stuck in a reactive mode, going “call to call to call.”

With additional personnel, he said, the force could get back to a proactive footing, allowing officers to effectively patrol the city.

In 2002, when a fiscal crisis in the city led the council to reduce the force from 37 officers to 32, Green said, the department handled fewer than 40 violent crimes a year. Last year, he said that number rose to 89.

Beaudin and Lorenzoni attribute part of the problem to an influx of downstate criminals drawn to both inexpensive available housing and, perhaps, their perception of drug trafficking opportunities in the city.

One possible factor, Beaudin said, may be that increased drug enforcement in the Capital Region is pushing dealers to Fulton County.

“There is a perception downstate [among drug dealers] that you can move upstate and conduct yourself as you please without interference from the police,” Lorenzoni said.

In recent years, he said, many of those arrested for drug dealing have been from the New York City area.

Hughes said he will ask the council April 8 to consider hiring two new officers, one a trained officer working elsewhere and willing to transfer to Gloversville.

Currently, the 32-officer roster includes former chief John Harzinski, who retired in February, but remains on the payroll through June 30; Officer Erik Peters, who is serving with the Air National Guard in Iraq until at least Thanksgiving; one officer in the academy and a fourth officer scheduled to finish training in coming weeks.

The two additional officers, Hughes said, would expand the force to 33, a level still below 2002 but sufficient to deploy five patrol officers on each of four shifts.

Hughes said the 2002 cuts were the result of a fiscal crisis that no longer exists. He said the city can afford the additional officer, which with pay and benefits would cost about $60,000.

The proposal to expand the force comes on the heels of a formal call from the board of the Business Improvement District to provide more police presence in the business district.

Categories: Schenectady County

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