Flint, Mich., police and fire departments are spending less time and money investigating arsons and making fewer arrests for the crime even though the city leads the nation in the rate of arsons per capita, a newspaper reports.
Two arson investigators employed by the departments are on pace to spend almost 500 fewer hours on the job with a savings of more than $13,000 in overtime costs this year than in 2012, according to payroll records obtained by The Flint Journal through the Freedom of Information Act.
The number of reported arsons in the city has decreased over the past few years, but FBI statistics show the city still had the highest per capita rate of arsons with its 226 in 2012, compared to 287 in 2011. City officials would not provide the newspaper with the number of arsons so far this year.
Fire Chief David Cox said it makes sense that the amount of time spent investigating arsons has decreased with budget cutbacks.
The police budget decreased $3.9 million this year. The fire budget, meanwhile, increased about $750,000.
The city spent nearly $56,000 in overtime pay last year for its two arson investigators. It is on pace to pay about $42,400 in overtime pay to the them this year, according to city payroll records provided to the newspaper.
“We all have to bite the bullet in terms of money because I can’t pay you what we don’t have,” Cox said. “Yes, maybe we’re not getting a conviction, but I don’t know how many convictions we were getting when they was making over $100,000. Can somebody tell me? I don’t know. Was it more? The more you make, the more you do? I don’t know.”
There were 30 arson-related charges filed against 20 people through mid-October 2012, according to Flint District Court records. In the same period this year, there were 22 charges against eight people.
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