Gov. Eliot Spitzer plans to redeploy almost 200 state troopers from schools and “racinos” around New York to high-crime areas — a politically sensitive move that worries some local police and school officials.
Spitzer in his budget proposal last week said the redeployment would put state police where they are most needed in tough fiscal times. While local officials said the move could stretch their own resources, state police stressed Tuesday they are not abandoning the eight race tracks in New York with video lottery terminals or the 118 school districts with troopers working as school resource officers.
“We’re not totally ceasing our responsibilities to provide service to those areas,” said Sgt. Kern Swoboda, a state police spokesman. “We’re just not having dedicated personnel assigned to those locations.”
There are 92 troopers and investigators posted at racinos from Yonkers to the Buffalo area that perform employee background checks and handle complaints.
Another 96 troopers are stationed at school districts to help maintain order. A minority of New York’s roughly 700 school districts use troopers for their school resource officers. Districts can rely on local police or choose not to have one.
Spitzer wants to reassign those officers to Operation Impact, a law enforcement program targeting the 17 counties that report 80 percent of the crimes outside of New York City. Given the state’s fiscal constraints, Spitzer in his budget said state police will have to be moved from “lower-priority posts” to keep state crime rates decreasing.
Swoboda said the troopers would stay in schools through the end of this school year and that there was no timetable for moving officers from the racinos. State police are working to make sure there are no gaps in public safety during the transition, he said.
Local police who would likely have to take up the slack are concerned, though. Saratoga Springs Police Chief Ed Moore said he does not have the staff to replace the entire trooper contingent at Saratoga Racing and Gaming.
School officials also are worried about losing troopers, saying the officers handle issues ranging from harassment to education to cyber-bullying.
“It would be a huge loss for us,” said Kelly DeFeciani, a spokeswoman for the Shenendehowa Central School District in Clifton Park.
The schools could seek replacements from local police forces. But Christy Multer of the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School District said that would be difficult since the district spans two counties and four towns. That means multiple police jurisdictions, she said.
“Could we get a local police officer to assist?” Multer asked. “Sometimes yes and sometimes no. It depends what school it is.”