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Resident concerned about Town of Tonawanda's plan to cut 3 police positions

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 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. There would be one officer for every 724 residents after the reduction.

"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 specifics 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."

Ushold 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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