Res­i­dent concerned about Ton­awanda’s plan to cut 3 po­lice po­si­tions

The Buffalo News - - LOCAL NEWS - By Nancy A. Fis­cher NEWS STAFF RE­PORTER

Ron Zaprzal was a dec­o­rated Buffalo po­lice of­fi­cer be­fore re­tir­ing ear­lier this year af­ter 32 years on the force.

But at his home on Wen­dover Av­enue in the Town of Ton­awanda, the for­mer cop said he feels like he is still fight­ing crime.

“We have a lot of prob­lems on our street,” said Zaprzal. “We’ve had a cou­ple bur­glar­ies, a sex of­fender and an in­crease in petty crimes.”

He said that a few weeks ago, a neigh­bor pulled into his drive­way and his head­lights picked up four peo­ple try­ing to break into an­other neigh­bor’s car.

That’s why he’s concerned about the Town of Ton­awanda’s plan to elim­i­nate three po­lice of­fi­cers from its force through at­tri­tion by the end of 2018.

Town of Ton­awanda Po­lice Chief Jerome Uschold con­firmed that he has been di­rected to re­duce the force of 103 to 100 through at­tri­tion. He said the depart­ment’s size has not gone up in sev­eral years. The town had an es­ti­mated 72,483 res­i­dents in July 2016, a de­crease of 1.4 per­cent since 2010.

“We’ve had an un­usu­ally high num­ber of re­tirees – eight re­tirees this year and a pro­jected 11 or more next year,” said Uschold. He said the town hired 10 new of­fi­cers this year to fill va­can­cies.

But he said the re­duc­tions in 2018 will not re­duce the num­ber of of­fi­cers as­signed to pa­trol. “The goal is to not touch the pa­trol force,” he said.

He plans to con­sol­i­date some po­si­tions to re­duce the force. He did not pro­vide any spe­cific de­tails, not­ing that he has un­til the end of 2018 to trim the force.

Su­per­vi­sor Joseph Em­minger said with the pro­jected loss of $2 mil­lion in tax rev­enues fol­low­ing the clos­ing of the Hunt­ley Power Plant, he asked all of the town’s larger de­part­ments, in­clud­ing high­way, wa­ter, and parks and recre­ation, to look for ways to con­sol­i­date.

“We would never do any­thing to risk pub­lic safety,” said Em­minger. “That’s why we asked (the Po­lice Depart­ment) to look for ways to con­sol­i­date. We don’t want them to take any­one off the street. Right now, we have a cap­tain do­ing the pay­roll. A civil­ian should be do­ing that. There would be huge sav­ings.”

Uschold said he tries to re­spond to crime con­cerns of res­i­dents.

“Ev­ery once in a while we have a crime streak,” said Uschold. When that hap­pens, the depart­ment re­sponds by set­ting up a task force and ap­prov­ing over­time.

But Zaprzal re­mains frus­trated. He said that over the years, he’s had a brick thrown through his win­dow af­ter he tried to stop peo­ple from drag racing down his street.

“I don’t think we are in the era that should re­duce po­lice,” he said.

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