Crime increased in most counties in the Capital Region last year, driven mostly by spikes in crimes against property, according to an annual report by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.
At the same time, many police agencies are contending with fewer resources as economic pressures squeeze their budgets.
The state report showed crime increased in Albany by 4 percent, in Fulton by 11 percent, in Montgomery by 60 percent, in Saratoga by 11 percent and in Schenectady by 3 percent in 2010, compared to 2009. Schoharie saw crime decrease 18 percent.
The good news is that crime is trending downward, according to data for the first two months of this year.
The state report counts murders, forcible rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults, called violent crimes. Burglaries, larcenies and motor vehicle thefts are called property crimes.
Jeff Smith, undersheriff for the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, said an increase in crime is attributable to two factors: the economy and lack of law enforcement.
“It is the math. The volume of crimes has increased, the number of officers has decreased,” Smith said. “The fear is that it will continue to increase because of the economic times and because there are fewer officers.”
Smith said the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors reduced the sheriff’s office overtime and part-time budgets and that he lost three positions: an investigator, a road patrol officer and a building security officer.
“We have fewer officers on the street,” Smith said. “It makes me nervous. Cutting public safety slows response times and reduces visibility. Presence and visibility act as good deterrents. Knowing there is a high probability you will get caught can deter people from taking criminal actions.”
Robert Carney, district attorney for Schenectady County, said he has downsized his office as well because of tight financial times. He also said he is receiving memos about overtime, which is related directly to preparation of trials involving felonies.
“There is no way around this problem. I am not going to work these cases less hard, and this is the price you pay to make a community like Schenectady, with crime issues, safe,” Carney said.
Carney said Schenectady’s crimes issues are related to many factors, such as demographics and the housing surplus in the city. “We had housing for 100,000 people one time and so you have an abundance of places to live in. This has attracted people here from more expensive places and a lot of them have brought pathologies with them,” he said.
Carney said the county’s financial problems are not as severe as the city’s. “The city’s budget is at more of a crisis than we are. Their contract makes additional policing more expensive and they need more police.”
Calls to city police officials were not returned.
The city, however, has received help through Project IMPACT. The state initiative seeks to combat violent and gun crime in 17 counties, including Schenectady, which account for 80 percent of the crime outside of New York City.
Schenectady County has received more than $1 million under Project IMPACT. Carney’s office shares the funds with city police.
The money pays for directed or saturation patrols, probation and parole home visits, warrant sweeps, narcotic and gang operations and more. Schenectady has also used the money to develop a crime intelligence unit and hire crime analysts. Carney said these initiatives help drive down the crime rate.
Police agencies that do not receive Project IMPACT money have to worker harder with less to deal with rising crime rates, Smith said.
“We are doing the best we can with what we have. We are concentrating on specific areas and focusing on areas with more call activity,” he said. “We understand times are tough all over and we are doing our share but we are worrying about next year’s budget,” he said.
The crime rate per 100,000 population for local counties by category were:
* Albany: overall, or index, 3,735 crimes per 100,000 population; 401 for violent crimes; 3,333 for property crimes.
* Fulton: 3,018, index; 226, violent; 2,881, property.
* Montgomery: 2,424, index; 150, violent; 2,274, property.
* Rensselaer: 3,135, index; 354, violent; 2,780, property
* Saratoga: 1,474, index; 68, violent; 1,405, property.
* Schenectady: 3,983, index; 495, violent; 3,487, property.
* Schoharie: 1,498, index; 54, violent; 1,443, property.
* New York state: 2,316 index; 390 violent; 1,925 property.
NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services
Categories: Schenectady County