Indiana Town Pleads for More Police Officers After Rise in Crime: 'We're Scrambling'

Residents of Utica, a small town in southeastern Indiana, are pushing municipal officials to expand the local police force amid a recent spike in crime.

Community members voiced their concerns to Utica's town council during a public meeting held earlier this week. The council's president, Steve Long, told ABC affiliate WHAS 11 that Utica's law enforcement presence is "nothing" without assistance from departments in the surrounding area. But without added resources from the state, Long said hiring more police officers, or extending current officers' shifts, will be difficult.

"If we could hire police tomorrow, we'd hire them," Long told the news station after Utica's latest town hall on Monday night. "When you have to go out and beg, borrow and steal...right now, we're scrambling," he continued.

About 6,000 people live across Utica Township, and roughly 900 reside within the bounds of its one-square-mile town proper. The township, located along the Ohio River in Indiana's Clark County, spans 22 square miles in full. Utica's police department employs one paid officer only, according to WHAS 11. Seven volunteer officers assist the department's police responsibilities, although none work full-time.

"We've just got to get more hours in there, but it's tough," Long added during Monday's interview. "We're just a small town You know, we're doing everything we can."

Long said Utica's current budget allocated $250,000 annually to its police department, WHAS 11 reported. After the town saw an uptick in violent crimes this summer, he noted intentions to request increased funds from the state in next year's proposal. He reportedly told the outlet law enforcement responded to a variety of local incidents over the past five weeks, including an attempted murder, carjacking and possible child abduction, in addition to drug-related crimes.

A July 13 post shared to the Utica Police Department's Facebook page notified residents about a suspect who was arrested in connection with a shooting that took place in the area earlier that day. Officers from the Clark County Sheriff's Office appeared to lead the response.

Newsweek reached out to Utica's municipal board members and the Clark County Sheriff's Office for more details about rising crime but did not receive replies in time for publication.

During Monday's town hall meeting in Utica, resident Deborah Finney suggested recent crimes involved people from outside of the municipality. While Utica itself is small, the town is situated less than 10 miles from the city of Jeffersonville, with close to 50,000 people, and about 25 miles from Louisville, Kentucky.

Indianapolis police
An Indianapolis police vehicle is pictured in Indiana's capital city. In Utica, a small town located along the state's southeastern border, residents are calling for an expanded police force in response to a recent uptick in crime. Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty