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Machete attack adds to Spa City crime spree

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Albany/HV: Machete attack adds to Spa City crime spree
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A Saratoga Springs man is in custody after police say he violently slashed the ear and face of another man Tuesday night. As YNN's Matt Hunter reports, it's just the latest in a recent string of criminal activity in the Spa City.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – What started as a small cookout between friends Tuesday quickly turned violent. Saratoga Springs Police investigators say Russell Duffney and another man got into an argument before the 46-year-old grabbed a 36 inch machete.

"Duffney picked up the machete and tried to slice off the victim's ear," said Lt. John Catone, who heads up the department’s criminal investigations unit.

Duffney was arrested shortly after the victim showed up at Saratoga Hospital with serious wounds to his ear and face. He’s been charged with first degree assault and criminal possession of a deadly weapon.

The arrest marks the fourth major crime within city limits in the past two weeks.

"With a city and it is a growing city, you have city problems,” Catone said. “That city problem, a lot of time, is an increase in crime."

Early Saturday morning, police say a group of men broke into a party at the Whitmore Court apartments and attacked a resident. According to Catone, one of the men had earlier been asked to leave the party. As of Wednesday afternoon, no arrests had been made.

A week earlier, a male suspect captured by surveillance cameras allegedly stole a BB gun from a downtown business. That theft happened only a few days before someone attempted to attack and rob a woman who was walking home on Granger Avenue. Police have yet to make an arrest in that case as well.

City police have also made roughly 20 drug arrests within the past two months.

"Sadly, as we've grown there is basically a bad element that sometimes will seep into the fabric of the community," Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner Christian Mathiesen said.

Most concerning for law enforcement is that this recent spike in criminal activity has occurred by early April, well before the busy season of summer when the city's population more than doubles.

"That's a problem,” Catone said. “That's a problem that we've been this, you know, had this many major issues already and we're barely into the fourth month of the year."

According to Catone, since 2009, 15 positions at the police department have been eliminated due to budget cuts, which some at City Hall believe is making it even harder for officers to do their jobs while the city continues to grow.

"It's more difficult to be proactive when you're slashing the investigative division and the patrol division," said Mathiesen, whose added funding for two additional patrol positions in his 2013 budget.

"Hopefully everybody catches onto that fairly soon to understand we need more help," Catone said.

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