2008-11-12 / Political Page

Vallone Plans Hearings On Mayor's Eliminating Cop Academy Class

BY JOHN TOSCANO

Reacting to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plans to cut the January Police Academy class, City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. called for immediate public hearings on the "dwindling police force and recent increases in crime in the city.

Vallone declared that although the city faces difficult economic times, it would be counterproductive to reduce the city's public safety resources, which he described as "the catalyst for all of New York's recent prosperity".

"The quickest way to hurt the economy even more is to make the streets less safe," the Astoria lawmaker said. "You only need to read the graffiti writing on the wall to see the effects of allowing the police force to decline."

Vallone said the mayor's announced plan to reduce the budget by $4 billion includes eliminating the 1,100-person January class at the Police Academy.

This would be wrong, he said, not only because the city would lose these new officers, but it would also fail to replace thousands of officers reaching retirement age.

Vallone explained that the city police force currently numbers about 36,000 officers, meaning that the mayor's plan to cut the academy class would reduce the department to around 33,000, which would be the lowest number since the Safe City, Safe Streets program was initiated in 1991.

The lawmaker said he feared this reduction would lead to dramatic increases in crime, as has already been evidenced in many parts of the city, he said.

While the crime rate is still historically low, Vallone said murders this year have risen by 11 percent over 2007. Rapes and robberies have also increased in many neighborhoods. In early 2008, overall crime on Staten Island rose by 25 percent and by 15 percent in parts of Upper Manhattan, he added.

Vallone said he hopes to hold public hearings on the mayor's proposed Police Academy cutback by mid-November. He said he believes that mid-year cuts to last year's budget should not go unchallenged.

"Criminals are like cockroaches," he said. "You just can't step on them once and hope they don't come back. If given the opportunity, they will return in force."

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