Should the East Syracuse Police Department be abolished to save money?
The East Syracuse Village Police Department was established in 1885, but soon village residents may vote on whether to abolish the department.
East Syracuse officials have called for a public hearing tentatively set for September 19th on a plan to do away with the police department and contract for services with the Dewitt Police Department. That could lead to a referendum in November.
East Syracuse Mayor Danny Liedka says the village is in a financial pinch. "We haven't raised taxes in 6 years and now we're at a crossroads. The biggest expense is our police department. We've got a great agency here but now we've got to make a choice on where we're going moving forward financially."
Liedka says the police department takes up 23% of the total village budget. The East Syracuse police department currently consists of a chief, two sergeants, four police officers, eight part-time police officers and a dispatcher.
Mayor Liedka points to two studies. One study by Fiscal Advisors and Marketing, projects that in future years the Police Department will account for 35% of the village's operating budget. A recent analysis by County Comptroller Robert Antonacci claims that village residents could lower their property taxes by an average of $532 if they abolish the police department and contract with Dewitt for enhanced services.
A group called Friends of the East Syracuse Police Department has formed to oppose efforts to abolish the department. The chair of the group, Kim O'Brien, does not believe the cost analyses.
"I don't see how it could cost as much as our Mayor is saying it will cost, but I am willing to pay a little more if I have to," says O'Brien.
O'Brien says she and other residents of East Syracuse are "outraged."
"I think it's putting our neighborhoods and our children in jeopardy. These police are walking the streets, they're on bikes, they're patrolling our area 24-7. They know the neighbors, they know the residents, they know the crime. They need to be here," says O'Brien.
East Syracuse Police Chief Donald Morris came out with his own budget figures which show the department's operating budget has gone down from $1,009,332 in 2007 to $842,584 in 2011. Yet the number of arrests have increased from 294 in '07 to 366 in '11.
"One main advantage is we're here in the community. We know where the incidences are, who the suspects may be and the community has direct access to us," says Morris.
Morris pointed out that both his department and Dewitt's are fully accredited so the level of professionalism would remain the same. He also says he understands why the Mayor is looking at ways to save money.