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Cortland/Ithaca

Union blames mayor for crime spike

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Union blames mayor for crime spike
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There's a double digit spike in crime in Utica this year and some people say City Hall is to blame. Our Andrew Sorensen looks at what the police union thinks is behind the crime wave.

UTICA, N.Y.-- Police Benevolent Association President Dominick Nitti is concerned about the 13 percent rise in crime this year.

"Crime is going up, vehicle larcenies and people are talking about their houses being broken into constantly," he said. "We repeatedly told the Common Council and the city's administration that cutting cops, crime is going to go up."

The union released a crime audit Tuesday blaming particularly Mayor Robert Palmieri for the bump. They say the city is spending too much on cars for the mayor and police chief and mismanaging other resources.

"They keep removing people out of patrol, placing them in specialized units that do not need any more personnel in them, as well as putting patrol officers in desk jobs," he said.

Nitti said the police cuts enacted in the spring have put too great a burden on limited patrol cars.

"Patrol on the streets who are running calls are not able to be out there doing proactive police work," he said.

The PBA is worried because the situation could keep getting worse and the only solution they see, putting more officers back on the streets, hasn't made it very far through city hall.

"Really this isn't an issue about management with the city, I'm the chief, I manage the police department and that needs to be clear. But more importantly, this is about the lack of resources," said Utica Police Chief Mark Williams.

Williams said he gets their frustrations, but being three years without a union agreement in a city with financial straits has left few solutions.

"A contract in place, that certainly would help. But unfortunately I don't see any light at the end of the tunnel right now. I mean we're going through a tough budget crisis," he said.

He also noted the crime rate dropped slightly after county money restored command staff and they hope to avoid deeper cuts next budget season.

Williams says the mayor traditionally keeps a car as acting public safety commissioner, but they have also cut costs over the years in those expenses.

Mayor Palmieri did not return repeated calls for comment.

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