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Utica Police Cuts Lead To Disbanding Of Burglary Unit, Even As Theft Spikes

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Utica, N.Y., has disbanded its burglary unit just as theft there is spiking, WKTV 2 reports.
Utica, N.Y., has disbanded its burglary unit just as theft there is spiking, WKTV 2 reports.

Theft is on the rise in Utica, N.Y., so the city has disbanded its burglary unit.

Wait, what?

Budget cuts recently led the Utica Police Department to eliminate its specialized burglary unit, despite the fact that the number of burglaries in the city rose 55 percent between June of last year and June of this year, WKTV 2 reports. Both car thefts and home burglaries are up, according to the news outlet.

Mark Williams, Utica's police chief, told WKTV 2 that he has lost 11 investigators, which has made it harder for police to solve crimes.

Utica is one of many local and state governments facing a budget crisis, largely due to weak tax revenue stemming from the deep jobs hole and income hole created by the recession.

To fill the gaps, for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, Utica raised property taxes 9.9 percent, according to the Utica Observer-Dispatch. The city council then chose public safety cuts instead of raising taxes further, laying off 12 police officers and 12 firefighters.

"I believe these cuts will result in property loss and maybe loss of life," Utica fire chief Russell Brooks told the Observer-Dispatch in March. "And it definitely will put firefighters at great risk."

There have been public safety budget cuts around the country. Detroit Police Department precinct offices, for example, are now closed between 4 p.m. and 8 a.m., a move officials say allows them to put more officers on street patrol.

In one extreme example, last week the city of Scranton, Pa., cut the pay of its roughly 400 employees, including police officers, to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, in an attempt to stave off a severe budget crisis. According to city officials, Scranton will only have $5,000 left in its coffers after this week.

Police cuts come even as cities, like Utica, continue to struggle with rising crime. There were more murders in Stockton, Calif., last year, even as the city cut the ranks of its police department and cut the pay and benefits of remaining officers, HuffPost's John Rudolf reported in March.

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