New detective position added to budget

Amsterdam police Detective John DiCaprio remembers spending 31⁄2 months last year on a wiretapping c
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Amsterdam police Detective John DiCaprio remembers spending 31⁄2 months last year on a wiretapping case that took up the entire detective bureau.

“Any major case like that takes up all the resources in the bureau and a lot of things get put to the side,” DiCaprio said Friday.

The city’s Budget Review Committee, which includes Common Council members, the mayor and controller, agreed Thursday with DiCaprio and other police supervisors to put money in the proposed budget for the hiring of a new detective and new civilian clerk.

The city’s proposed $23 million budget for 2008-2009 would increase the city’s tax rate by 2.4 percent to $14.22 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

DiCaprio said the extra help in the detective bureau would free up detectives and could potentially allow one detective to strictly investigate drug cases.

“Years ago we had more detectives than today and drugs weren’t as big an issue,” said DiCaprio, who has been on the force for 20 years. “Crime is always going up and drugs are a bigger issue. This will really help us out a lot.”

The new detective would have a base salary of $57,000 and the civilian clerk would have a base salary of $28,000.

This is the first time in 13 years that police Chief Thomas Brownell has asked for a new detective, he said while defending his department’s $3 million budget to the review committee on Thursday.

“It’s a whole different ballgame out there now,” he said. “If we don’t make the drug arrests now, we’ll be making the murder arrests later.”

Detective Lt. Thomas DiMezza made a presentation to the Budget Review Committee Thursday outlining the work done by detectives.

DiMezza said there are currently six detectives on the police force, including himself and the sergeant. One detective strictly handles juvenile cases.

The detective bureau had 1,104 arrests in 2007 and worked on 890 felony cases, which averages to 17 cases per week.

Besides investigating cases, the detective bureau handles paperwork, evidence and performs records and background checks for various organizations, including the military and state agencies.

The bureau is also busier now that the city has a full-time judge to handle the increasing number of City Court cases. DiMezza said the state has mandated that everyone convicted of a misdemeanor has to provide DNA samples, a process that can take half an hour. The bureau is also responsible for monitoring convicted Level 3 sex offenders every 90 days.

“The old adage do more with less is getting tough,” DiMezza said. “My guys are getting burnt out.”

DiMezza said despite the extra work, the city is still a safe place to live and hasn’t had a homicide in seven years.

“We are very active. … That’s why this city is so safe because we take a proactive approach and get the drug dealers off the streets,” DiMezza said.

Brownell said the detectives don’t only handle drug cases. They investigate child abuse claims and those reports can’t be put on hold.

“You can’t just say we’ll get to that later,” he said.

The Budget Review Committee had no problems with the Amsterdam Fire Department’s $2 million budget, which would promote two employees to lieutenant. Committee members also agreed to support a $6,000 raise for Chief Richard Liberti.

Categories: Schenectady County

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