The most wanted criminals in Saugerties are not the murderers or bank robbers the phrase may conjure up. The list, presented monthly on Lighthouse Channel 23, includes people charged with issuing bad checks, driving while intoxicated, and failure to pay fines.
In the four months since the program, Saugerties Most Wanted, began broadcasting, seven of the suspects shown have been apprehended, police chief Joseph Sinagra said. “People are watching the channel and the program,” Sinagra said.
One man discovered there was a warrant out for his arrest when he was watching the program. He turned himself in.
“The point of the program is to let the community know that there are individuals that we’re looking for, and it could be for something very serious, or it could be for something that’s minor,” Sinagra explained.
“The idea for the program was suggested by the Chief a while ago,” said Anastasia Redman, of Lighthouse Channel 23. “He thought that having this segment presented after his regular ‘From the Desk of the Chief’ may help in the apprehension of these individuals. The idea was presented to our Advisory Board and after the legal concerns were cleared by the Town Council, it became my task to format and produce the shows for the Police Department…I was put in touch with P.O. Jorge Castagnola who is in charge of the warrants division at the Saugerties Police Department. We then shot the segment and aired the first show on July 2016. It is 100% the responsibility of the SPD to create the show and select the postings. As Program Director for TV23 I am charged with shooting and editing the information which is approved by The Chief for each show.”
If criminal arrest information has been filed, the courts issue an arrest warrant. If the person can’t be located, those warrants kind of hang in limbo until the person is picked up on them.
Courts will also have imposed fines that have to be paid to them. In some cases people don’t pay the fines. When they ignore these responsibilities, courts will issue bench warrants for them.
“To date we have just under 200 warrants in the system,” said the Saugerties police chief. “We took a look at it, and we would assign officers on a daily basis. Hey, go take a look and see if you can locate this person. And they would go to the house, knock on the door, find out that the person moved months ago, and so on.”
The department was looking for a better way to get information out. “What the television offered us was the opportunity to do a show called Saugerties Most Wanted,” explained Sinagra. “Every month we profile four individuals that we have warrants for, ranging from something that’s petty to … I think we had one recently for an assault.”
People watch the local cable channel.
“What’s really nice about it is that we’ve only been doing this for four months now, and we’ve already had – today we’ll have our seventh arrest as a result of Saugerties Most Wanted,” Sinagra said. “Just before you got here, we had some information from someone who had seen last month’s episode, and they said, Hey, we know where this person is. We will be picking that person up today.”
The program has helped the police department communicate with the community. “I have always said the community is really the eyes and ears for the police,” said Sinagra. “The community is out there 24/7 like we are, but we can’t be everywhere. If you take a whole community of people, we can cover a lot more area. The importance of it is community involvement. We ask community members too simply, if you recognize a person and if you know where they are, call us or stop by headquarters and give us the information.”
Please don’t apprehend
Information is the service the community can provide, Sinagra said. “We don’t expect community members to apprehend. In fact we don’t encourage them to apprehend. Leave that up to us, that’s what we’re here for, it’s just the eyes and ears.”
The police want to know where and when the person giving the information saw the wanted person. In fact, each program opens with a statement from the presenter, sergeant Jorge Castagnola: “Do not speak to or interact with these individuals. Just call me with the location, date and time you noticed them. Call me at 246-9800, extension 258, and we will take it from there. Let’s work together and make our town a safer place.”
The Lighthouse Channel 23 segment, about three or four minutes long, provides photographs and descriptions of the four wanted individuals.
Could a suspect be gone by the time the police respond? “We act on those tips right away,” the police chief said. “It is important that when you get information you act on it right away.”
If the wanted person lives outside the community, the police get as much information as they can and have the local police in the appropriate jurisdiction do a follow-up. Any police agency can execute the warrant on another agency’s behalf. Warrants are usually issued for misdemeanors and felonies and only rarely for violations, Sinagra added.
There has been no negative reaction to the posting, Sinagra said. The person who turned himself in said he didn’t realize there was a warrant out for him.
The chief has a monthly half-hour program, From the Chief’s Desk, in which he talks about current issues – both police issues and more general issues – and introduces guests from the public. The most recent broadcast featured the heads of Diaz Ambulance presenting a new identification form that can be posted in homes to help ambulance personnel deal with emergencies.
The Lighthouse TV web site can be accessed at http://lighthousetv.peg.tv.