East Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- Hundreds of people showed up to a special information session Tuesday night, where they learned more about the plan to abolish the East Syracuse Police Department. The plan – if approved – would mean entering an "enhanced coverage agreement" with the neighboring town of DeWitt.
An effort to save the village police department began last month and has grown ever since. One man at Tuesday’s meeting said, “They stand up for us, so tonight, we’re standing up for them.”
Another resident said, “The officers in the East Syracuse Police Department know not only the village, they know you and they know your neighbors like no other department would."
A majority of East Syracuse residents don’t want to part with the police department. However, the village is facing a $400,000 deficit, which led to the proposal.
The move would save taxpayers about $250 a year, but opponents say it’s not worth it.
"Other things should be considered before safety,” said one resident.
Others worry about response time.
"One woman at seven in the morning was going to work. Three boys tried to rob her. If they had to wait for Dewitt to get here, she would have been robbed and probably laying dead on the ground,” said resident Wihelmina Stuper.
Response time in DeWitt is just less than three minutes; in East Syracuse it’s just more than one minute.
"We have officers on the street in those areas routinely, constantly during the day going down the same streets. Naturally our response times will be better,” said East Syracuse PBA President Peter Hooser.
A bigger police force in DeWitt could also mean a big benefit for the village. According to DeWitt’s Police Chief, the town would hire the village’s six full-time officers and add a police post in the middle of the village to be manned by one of them at all times.
The rest of the village would be covered by surrounding units from DeWitt’s larger police force.
“We need more police protection in this village; not less. This is the only way we’re going to get it,” said Mayor Danny Liedka.
However, one big question remains: Why not cut elsewhere to balance the budget? The mayor says they could, but they’d be looking at the possibility of cutting a third of the village’s staff or severely diminishing other services. In his eyes, by abolishing the police department, you could get the same or better police service, while leaving everything else intact.
Ultimately, the decision will be up to voters. The board is expected to put the issue up for referendum at its October 1 meeting. If approved, the referendum vote would then be held on October 16.