NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A tough budget vote has slashed city services in New Haven. Most of the cuts have hit the police department. According to FBI statistics, New Haven has the second highest rate of violent crime in Connecticut. Despite that, the Board of Alderman approved a budget slashing law enforcement funding by $4-million.
Chief Otoniel Reyes said, "I think there’s an argument to be made that it does make us less safe. We can’t say that fewer officers at a time when crime is spiking is going to make a community safer. I’m concerned about that." The Board of Alderman approved the budget Monday night. They reduced the salary of two vacant lieutenant positions and two vacant sergeant positions down to just $1. One officer and two records clerk positions will also remain vacant for now.
New Haven Alderman Richard Furlow said, "For some reason people think that the budget is closed once it’s approved and we can do nothing else. But we can always go back into it and make amendments if necessary."
But there’s no denying the cuts are significant. Chief Otoniel Reyes told FOX61 it will reduce their ability to provide walking beats and force them to transfer supervisors. "Its definitely going to impact the visibility of police," explained Chief Reyes. "We have fewer officers on the streets, fewer supervisors. The other thing is it’s going to impact our overtime because we are dealing with a spike in violent crime."
New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker says the cuts don’t have much to do with social unrest or the Black Lives Matter movement, but rather an ongoing budget crisis. Mayor Elicker says its a reflection of the cities rising fixed costs. He called it a choice between cutting services or raising taxes. "It was already a very difficult decision. Our pension and debt service and fixed costs are rising. There’s only two places that can come from, cuts or tax increase...It’s not like we cut and take the money and put it elsewhere. We have to cut just because of our existing systemic financial challenges," said the mayor.
The budget cuts didn’t only hit the police. 101 city positions were defunded down to $1. It's a way to hold their place without totally eliminating them. Other cuts included some services to seniors, library funding, public works and funding for the arts. Chief Reyes continued, "There is a call for police to have a smaller footprint on the community. We are willing be what the community needs us to be. We are part of this community."
Overall the police cuts will result in an 11% reduction in the size of the police force. The Fire Department is also getting hit. Four vacant Firefighter / EMT positions are being defunded.