Local residents discussed a variety of topics at yesterday’s Neighborhood Watch meeting held at City Hall. Laison Georgia O’Conner chaired the meeting. Police Chief Greg Culick, Laison Sgt. Kirk Walters, Codes Officer Jeff Senecal and Mayor Ann Thane were also present to answer questions.
In response to residents’ questions about reporting codes violations, Senecal explained that his department has to give the owner 5 days to fix the problem before they take action. He explained that the identity of someone reporting a codes violation would be kept confidential unless the issue went to court. He also said that the codes department could inspect an apartment if invited by a tenant. But otherwise, he said the department could only walk on the property’s driveway or go up to the front door.
Jim Glorioso gave a short presentation about his new organization called the Mohawk Valley Crime Prevention Network. Glorioso said his group, which is currently applying for its non-profit organization status, plans to be affiliated with Crime Stoppers USA. According to Glorioso, his organization will distribute information on crimes and wanted persons and give out cash rewards to people who provide information that leads to the arrest of felons and fugitives. He said that his organization plans to work cooperatively with neighborhood watch groups in Herkimer, Montgomery, Fulton, Albany and Schenectady Counties.
O’Connor brought up the issue of school safety on Election Day. She recounted her own experience last November when she went to vote at a local elementary school and saw children coming into the building from recess through the same entrance that voters were using.
“It would have been so easy for me to grab a couple extra children and walk them away with me,” said O’Connor, “It really raised a lot of concerns for me.”
O’Connor said she had contacted the Commissioner of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, who told her that he agreed with her concerns but that they had difficulty finding locations other than schools for voting locations. O’Connor asked attenders to help come up with ideas for alternate locations for voting. Chief Culick said that the lobby of the Public Safety building was available. Mayor Thane said that the Riverfront Center would also be an idea location. O’Connor asked anyone interested in helping her find alternate locations to talk with her after the meeting.
Chief Culick announced that the police department will begin issuing a weekly report posted to their department’s Facebook page. The report will include the number of calls to date, arrests, accidents and other situations the department is working on.
O’Connor said that she has received many calls from residents complaining about rising crime and how the city was “going to hell in a hand basket.”
Chief Culick said in regards to overall crime activity, “We’re generally the same every year, up a little some years, down a little other years. Violent crime wise – when you look at our Uniform Crime Reports compared to other cities, we’re blessed. Amsterdam has very low violent crime – robberies, rapes, things like that. We’re a small population, but still in all, violent crime, number-wise, is very low in the city of Amsterdam.”
Culick cited the number of reported incidents of criminal mischief, such as the recent outbreak of tire slashings, has been up and down over the years. He reported that in 2009 there were 134 reported incidents of criminal mischief, 2010 had 114 incidents, 2011 had 108 incidents, 2012 had 84 incidents, 2013 had 110 incidents and in 2014 there were 132 incidents. In regards to the lack of a clear upward trend in crime, Culick also cited the Mohawk Valley Compass’ graph of crime data published last month.
O’Connor said she wants to begin keeping a database of residents and businesses with security cameras in order to help the police department with crime investigations. She asked anyone who is already recording surveillance video to provide her with their address or what location the camera was covering. Chief Culick said that the use of a similar database had been very effective in the City of Troy.
The next Neighborhood Watch meeting is scheduled for February 11, 2015, 6:30pm at St. Stanislaus’ Parish Hall.
(Photos by Tim Becker)