Salt Lake police officers say eliminating the department's Crime Analysis Unit will damage their ability to catch criminals.
Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis is recommending 3 percent budget cuts in each city department, including a $600,000 cut in the police budget. That means the Crime Analysis and Crime Prevention programs are currently earmarked for the budget ax.DePaulis will present his proposed budget to the City Council Tuesday night. The council will adopt the budget June 9.
Gordon Hoskins, city finance manager, said cuts were made to keep services status quo, despite no increases in revenue to the city's general fund. Despite eliminating the police programs, more officers will be on the street.
Detectives say they are upset at losing the analysis unit, which was honored this year by the Wasatch Front Law Enforcement Association for its outstanding contributions to criminal investigations and was praised by a recent management audit of the police department.
"Doing away with crime analysis is ludicrous," said one detective who has solved numerous cases with the help of the unit. "They're a hell of a good source of information. Crime analysis is our right hand."
The detective said he would give the unit a description of a bandit and within minutes would have a half-dozen suspects to look at.
"You give them a tattoo, a scar, a color of hair or a vehicle and they come up with a list of people we can start looking at," the detective said.
Homicide squad Sgt. Don Bell said his detectives frequently use the crime analysts' expertise and data. "They do a lot of tracking for us," said Bell, whose Homicide Task Force has spent countless hours with crime analysis.
The unit has also donated hundreds of hours and much information to a federal task force investigating a serial bomber.
But Bell said he understands the budgetary considerations that are going into the decision to cut the program.
The elimination of crime analysis comes as a shock to some of the four members of the unit because of a 1986 management audit that praised the unit and suggested it be strengthened.
"The (unit) operates systems that are far superior to police departments of similar size," the auditors concluded. "However, the full capacity of the system is not achieved because of staffing. We found the current director and staff very talented, informative, enthusiastic and devoted to the goals and objectives of the department."
The audit suggested further that a planning and research section be added to the Crime Analysis Unit.
Police Chief Bud Willoughby, who retires at the end of the month, embraced the recommendations and, in his response to the audit, stated: "It is ironic that the audit team would recommend the development of a planning and research section. This department, for many years, had (such a) section, but because of budgetary constraints, over half of the section was eliminated.
"Police management determined that crime . . . analysis was much too important to eliminate, and the planning and research section was consolidated into a Crime Analysis Unit with much less manpower and resources."
City Councilman Wayne Horrocks, who worked for the Crime Prevention Unit until he took office in January, said he is opposed to the cuts. "The Crime Prevention Unit is such a cost-effective program it would be foolish to eliminate it. It would be false economy."
After the program was begun, residents reported a marked drop in burglary rates, Horrocks said.