Budget cuts to affect sheriff's river patrols

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- With the holiday weekend coming up, many people are looking forward to boating on the Rock River but may have do so with a little more caution. The Winnebago County Sheriff's Department is scaling back its river patrols after major budget cuts.

"Law enforcement is a necessary entity and there's really no way around it,” said Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana.

While facing an $8 million budget deficit last year, the Winnebago County Board requested the sheriff's department cut $4.3 million causing the layoff of dozens of employees.

"We’re strategically working through them. We've cut $2.7 million, but we've had to add back overtime,” said Caruana.

As summer gets closer Sheriff Gary Caruana says there won't be as many deputies patrolling on the Rock River.

"Obviously I can't put out the crew that I had two years ago before these," said Caruana.

Caruana says in previous years the department was able to support several officers patrolling the river Thursday through Sunday during the summer but with budget constraints that won't happen this year.

"It’s costly. In my heart, mind and soul I want to put them out there because I want to make sure that we keep everybody safe," said Caruana.

Caruana says it's concerning not knowing when deputies will be able to get out on the water but says they will be there during big holiday weekends.

"There's still how do we do this and still be prudent to the budget and the safety of the public and the safety to my deputies on the river, on the street and in the jail. That's concerning," said Caruana.

Although the number of patrols will be decreased this summer, making sure we all stay safe both in and around the river is a top priority.

"Summer usually spikes law enforcement needs in any agency and we expect the same thing, but we'll be there,” said Caruana.

Caruana says there will be deputies on the river Memorial Day weekend. He also encourages anyone who will be on the water to follow river rules, stay safe and have fun.