Friday, February 27, 2009

Cameras...Lights... NO DRUG TRANSACTIONS!

Yesterday I was yapping about the police department. Newburgh PD. Today, I am going to lay out some ideas. Everyone has ideas. And there are many approaches to clean up a city ridden with crime. I am sharing mine.
Unfortunately, we must acknowledge first that, in Newburgh, we a culture of crime that is deep rooted. We have a city full of people hampered and impaired by alcohol, drugs and other addictive behaviors. Ask any cop in Newburgh and they will tell you that most of the violent crimes were spurred by some addictive behavior.
Another group who can be worse than the addicts are the enablers. They cushion bad behavior. They don't call the police when they witness a crime. They participate in quiet ways in this culture of crime. For instance, a man on the street offers to sell an item that is clearly stolen. An enabler will buy it and hence be a part of the problem.
So we, the collective we, must decide if we really want to clean up this city. Will we, the residents herein, have a visceral response to bad behavior in our schools, streets or City Hall?

Second, in my sometimes humble opinion, the City of Newburgh must do the following:

1. Hire a new Police Chief

Sorry Chief Paollili. Actually I think you have done a good job as chief. I have seen the positive energy among your men and women. I have seen a slew of drug dens being busted up. And I will acknowledge your accreditation. But I know, in my experience in work place environments, that having a chief who has come through the ranks is counterproductive. The chief will most times feel an affinity to his former brothers and sisters in blue. The chief knows them too well. He was one of them. That doesn't work in the line of command.
I suggest an outside force. An experienced police chief on the national scene who specializes in communities like Newburgh. A chief with a proven record of addressing gang behavior and reducing violent crime and drug peddling while still improving quality of life issues.
In yesterday's Times Herald-Record article, there was a good example of why an outside administrator is needed. Apparently, $17,000 is missing from the safe that keeps items confiscated in drug busts. According to my sources, only two police officers have the safe key. These monies are marked and kept in that safe until transferred to City Hall for deposit in a special account by the Comptroller. But the monies were lost or stolen somewhere in the process. The monies have been missing for six months. The Orange County DA and FBI are investigating.
An outside administrator would have set up checks and balances so this situation would never sully the reputation of his or her police department.
The kicker here is that the monies were missing for six months and the City Council just learned about it a week ago. But the Mayor knew. Oops, back to the police.

2. Place more cameras in Drug Zones

Why spend money on manpower, when you can put up surveilliance cameras that work 24-hours a day without a pay and benefits. Cameras work. For drug dealers, cameras are like Kryptonite. A better analogy is that cameras are like lights; they force the cockroaches to run and hide.
I lived on South Williams by a bar called the Casbah. It was an experience that I am hesitant to write about but will do so in the future. All day and night, men stood out on the corner selling their illegal consumables. They had not a worry in world. Business was brisk. Some nights there would be fights with 100 or 200 people in the streets. I would call the police, but police don't rush to such scenes when there are only 4 or 6 officers available at 3AM. So you can imagine the havoc and mayhem.
Then came the cameras. I didn't see them at first, but I noticed the drug dealers were gone. I asked around to see if they had all been arrested. But no. They ran from the cameras. They ran far away. In fact, I don't even think they are in Newburgh.
Cameras work. We need more.

Cut down the sneakers

This is a small thing. But it bugs me. All over the rough sections of the city, people hang sneakers on the electric lines. They are basically a sign or advertisement saying: DRUGS ARE SOLD HERE.
If the DPW can fix traffic lights and put up Christmas lights, why can't they cut down the sneakers. It would make the city look much better.

I have a few more things to add but, it is time to do some business.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Phenomenal Eatery Opens on Liberty Street

Car 54 Where are you?

Don't be saddened if you remember that TV series. You are just a little older and wiser.
For those who don't remember, the series was about a pair of bumbling cops in Car 54 who were always lost when the the chief needed them. Hence, the cry went over the radio: "Car 54 Where are you?"
In this city, there is a better cry: Newburgh PD where are you?
If you ever needed the police, most times you were not happy to see them. They only arrive if you are in trouble. Let's say, you were a victim of a crime. Or you crashed a car on Robinson Avenue. Or worse, you have an arrest warrant. Not very pleasant moments. But there are times when people are pleased to see police. Like at big gatherings or just riding or walking around the streets. Most people feel a little safer when there is security.
So how much presence does the City of Newburgh PD have? Where do you see them? Are they walking, riding, or biking the streets. Are they out at night? Can you find a detective on a weekend? I will leave these questions for your answers. But I have a few answers of my own.
First, I have been in Newburgh long enough to have seen the changes in the police department. Fifteen years ago, drug dealers hid their stash. And when a buyer came, they took their order, ran to the stash and served their dope fiend. Dealers were afraid to carry anything on themselves because they would get stopped and arrested quickly. The police were proactive, the dealers were fewer and scared to get arrested. That was prior to my dear friend Chief Bloom.
When Chief Bloom first took over the helm, there were many drug busts and a lot of proactive police work. For whatever reason, the energy died. And the Newburgh Police Department created, unknowingly or purposely, what I can only describe as a policy of "Containment." It is not pro-active approach to reducing crime. And crime rates went up. When someone was murdered, the police showed up to clean up. There was limited police presence. There was two deaths in one year in police custody which set off the community. There was emphasis on quality of life issues such a playing music too loud while drug sales flourished and violence surged.
Then comes Chief Eric Paollili. Suddenly, there is a surge of police activity. I don't know where the money came from, but I saw new equipment, black S.W.A.T. team uniforms, machine guns, Glock pistols, jack boots and more. It was like they went on a shopping spree and bought out the inventory of the FBI or DEA.
Two years ago, I remember taking my daughter to the hair dresser on lower Broadway one evening. I looked outside and saw 15 to 20 officers dressed in black. Suited up in what looked like body armor. I knew they were doing a No-Knock Drug Bust and was concerned they were coming into the beauty shop. But no, they were going upstairs. (I should have known because I could hear the toilet flushing up there). I came out to talk to the cops after they secured the apartment. They were very professional, orderly and serious. And they were all Newburgh police officers. And I remember saying to myself, Thank God, they are going to clean up the city.
That was two years ago. Now I am asking a familiar Newburgh question: Newburgh PD where are you?
Well, in my opinion the Newburgh PD is heading or already in a policy of containment. There could be various reasons for this perceived change in police presence. One reason may be budgetary. Other reasons, or better excuses, could be limited police available, union restrictions, or limited leadership. Whatever the reasons, security is the first and foremost important issue in this city.
Newburgh has a rough reputation. People hear of a Newburgh murder in Westchester or Rockland County and say, "Newburgh again?" Not that crimes don't happen in their community, but Newburgh has a negative public personna. Yes, even a city can have a personna.
Again, security is key. These streets which we frequent need to be cleaned of crime, negative behavior and litter.
So next will be some ideas and approaches to crime reduction that I have seen over the years could work. Tune in tomorrow.
BTW, I wrote this blog in the new restaurant at 119 Liberty Street called THE WHEREHOUSE. It just opened yesterday. And it is really good. Very positive! Please check it out, you won't be disappointed. Owners Michelle and Daniel have done a fantastic job!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Welcome to my World: Newburgh

This is my first entry into a new world of the glamorous life of Newburgh NY. Glamorous may not be the correct word to use to express life in Newburgh, but there is hope.
It was suggested this morning at a seminar hosted by the Orange County Association of Realtors that everyone should have a blog. I had no idea of how to put it together so I called my 22-year-old daughter and asked. She just did a blog a few weeks ago. So here I am.
Today, I spent my afternoon cleaning my office at 730 Broadway. Sometimes one must just throw out the clutter. I am preparing for the upswing in the real estate market. Please, dear Lord, make it happen!
The evening included attending a forum sponsored by County Legislator Jim Kulisek. He is a very good representative and stays involved. It is like he really likes his job. The forum speaker was David Jolly, Orange County Commissioner of Social Services. In attendance was County Legislators Chris Eachhus and Jeff Berkman of Middletown.
Jolly spoke about the operation of DSS and then took questions. Many people had jarring stories of how they were mistreated by DSS staff and the Deputy Sheriffs who welcome in the welfare recipients. I spoke about my experiences of sitting down there for 45 minutes waiting to deliver a simple document to a social worker. It was a glimpse into the life of the people in Newburgh who are subjected to some really cruel and mean-spirited county workers. I also asked about what percentage of DSS expenditures makes up total County budget. I estimated 50%. But Jolly informed me that 73% of property tax revenues go to Social Service Programs. That is not all, The county receives additional funds from the State and Fed to address Medicare. So the total budget for Social Service related services is larger than the County budget.
After the forum, Jolly came to me and personally introduced himself. A very nice administrator and gentleman, but the whole system needs an overhaul. Especially Newburgh gets probably 60 to 70% of his total budget.
I mentioned that welfare is by far the largest industry in Newburgh. And also asked what could be done to decrease the number of recipients. The whole system is upsetting!