Updated 07/17/2012 06:49 PM
Officers face "perfect storm" of crime
For months, the clouds have been gathering. Factors ranging from an unusually warm year to the weak economy have combined to create what Utica's police chief calls a "perfect storm" of crime in the city. Our Sarah Blazonis spoke with him about what officers are facing and what the department is doing to turn things around.
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UTICA, N.Y. -- Police Chief Mark Williams says his department has actually seen fewer violent incidents in 2012, like the shots fired reports officers responded to Monday night. But property crimes are up. Last month, larcenies from parked cars saw a 175 percent increase over the same time last year. Total calls are up by more than 2,000.
"A lot of the criminal element that we've dealt with in the past and were sentenced away for serious crimes, seems over the last six months a lot of them have been released from jail," said Chief Williams.
Also contributing to rising numbers: The layoffs of 17 officers due to budget cuts earlier this year. Chief Williams says he also suspects the economy and warm weather is partly to blame.
A grant from the state's Operation IMPACT program will give the department more than $300,000 to help fight growing crime.
"There are monies for overtime to do some enforcement initiatives in the form of sweeps, targeted patrols," said Williams.
"Chief Williams says steps are also being taken to make sure the department is running as efficiently as possible. He's requested a study be performed by the Division of Criminal Justice Services to see if new patrol patterns could be adopted to increase effectiveness.
"We've got to work with the numbers that we've got. We've just got to find a more effective way to deliver our services and at the same time try to assure the safety for not only the public but for our police officers," said the chief.
It's a goal Williams says cash-strapped departments across the country are working toward.