Thursday, February 26, 2009

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!

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