Updated 08/08/2012 06:55 AM
Burglaries up 73 percent, low staff could be key
Utica police say burglaries are becoming a major issue across the city. They are up more than 70 percent from this same time last year. Our Andrew Sorensen tells us what the police think is going on and what they're trying to do about it.
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UTICA, N.Y. -- Utica police are dealing with a very sudden and startling rise in burglaries this year.
"It changes a little bit," said Utica Police Sergeant Steve Hauck. "It goes up or down, but whenever you see something in the double digits as an increase that's a big number."
They've seen a nearly 73 percent increase in burglaries all over the city, but they are not totally sure why.
"One of the only things we can attribute to maybe a change recently is we have had some cutbacks in the department," Hauck explained. "And our burglary unit had to be disbanded to be able to fill some holes."
At this time last year, Utica police had dealt with 428 burglaries. This year, they're already up to 737. Almost 500 of them have taken place since the unit was disbanded in April.
"One of the things we've talked about with these cuts and having to disband the burglary unit is, because we have less investigators, is the ability to follow up as much as we'd like on these cases," Hauck said.
One of the problems police say they have in solving these crimes is that once a criminal gets their hands on something like a GPS or a computer, it moves quickly, sometimes before you even know it's gone.
"Everybody wants a GPS, everybody wants a cell phone, so they can turn around and within probably an hour or so turn that money into cash," Hauck said.
The spike since April equates to at least one extra burglary a day, and they are relying on fewer officers to follow up and catch the fast moving stolen goods.
"During the day you might see someone on foot that's circling the area, or riding a bicycle or driving through the same neighborhood over and over and over," Hauck said.
They hope the recent promotion of nine officers and reinstatement of two more will help in oversight and ease the work load, but it will need a long-term fix.
"Everybody agrees there needs to be a burglary unit. That's something administratively between the chief and city hall that they're going to have to work out," said Hauck
Police don't have much hope for the short term because they say people don't usually stop burglarizing until they are caught.
In the meantime, police say by just having an alarm or a dog, home and business owners can prevent burglaries. But they should also take care to lock up their doors and windows and keep an eye out for suspicious activity.
The trend in burglaries are a large part of a bigger trend. Utica police say property crimes in Utica are up 23 percent overall