Is First Selectman Vicki Tesoro responsible for a crime increase in Trumbull? That is the claim that Republican challenger Michael Herbst made recently.

Herbst, in a written statement emailed to supporters Monday, cited “Tesoro’s lack of engagement with rank and file officers, along with her lack of financial support, as the reason why there has been an uptick in crime.”

In his statement, Herbst cited statistics from Tesoro’s 2019-20 budget request. The numbers showed that emergency calls for domestic violence increased from 193 to 209, drug possession from 124 to 169, and sexual assault from 17 to 31. He also cited several recent high-profile crimes that had occurred in town, including a purse-snatch and car-theft from an 82-year-old woman.

These numbers, which Police Chief Michael Lombardo supplied in his budget request, represent calls to police and not necessarily arrests or convictions.

Tesoro pointed out that the 2018 crime reports were for the calendar year 2018, not the town’s budget year, meaning that for the first six months of 2018, the Police Department was operating under a budget approved by former First Selectman Tim Herbst, son of Michael Herbst.

“For the first six months of 2018, that was my predecessor’s budget, and I increased funding from that,” she said.

On Wednesday Police Commission Chairman Ray Baldwin and Vice-Chairman Angelo Magliocco responded, calling his comments “factually inaccurate and totally irresponsible.” Baldwin, a Democrat, and Magliocco, a Republican, are both members of their party’s town committee but issued a joint statement that “Politics has no place in the public safety arena and Mr. Herbst should know better.”

The two also labled as “patently false” Herbst’s contention that the number of officers assigned to patrol had been slashed from 41 to 26.

Herbst had included in his statement that lack of support from Town Hall had led to a reduction in patrol officers, causing a surge in overtime costs and taking a toll on officers.

“When you have fewer officers assigned to patrol, you have fewer officers fighting crime,” Herbst said. “This is clearly a resource issue and I will not nickel and dime public safety.”

But the two Police Commission leaders said the budget requested by Tesoro and approved by the Board of Finance and Town Council was sufficient to maintain patrol levels.

“There are actually 39 officers and 9 supervisors assigned solely to patrol duties in the town of Trumbull,” they wrote. “Simply put, the protection of our community is not and has not been compromised and suggestions and accusations by Mr. Herbst suggesting otherwise are false and dangerous.”