Trustee Don Hackett says the police department isn’t covering the village the way it promised to before the dissolution of the village department last year, and he said as much to Deputy Police Chief Joseph Sinagra at a recent village board meeting.
“My concern is coverage,” Hackett told Sinagra. “Originally we were told that we would have officers here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and I don’t see it.”
“Whenever possible we keep two cars in the village,” Sinagra said. The exception is when an officer in another part of town needs assistance.
Sinagra added that the police department is down two officers, who will soon be replaced, “so right now it’s tough.”
Mayor William Murphy said the merger is still undergoing growing pains, but he sees good police coverage.
Under the terms of the contract signed by both the town and village for the merger, the village was promised two officers around the clock for the first two years. For this, the village is paying $408,000 over that time, above and beyond what village taxpayers contribute through the newly expanded “town outside village” portion of their taxes.
That requirement was meant to assuage the very concern Hackett expressed last week: that the new department wouldn’t pay sufficient attention to the village, and that the level of service would decrease. When it sunsets next year, Sinagra said, the level of service will be the same despite the lack of extra payments from the village.
“The village is the center of Saugerties and this coverage will continue,” he said.
Police Lt. Steve Filak, previously of the village department, said part of the problem might be that the village’s cars with black and white are easy to spot, while the town cars “have a lower profile.”
Sinagra added that he wants to see more community policing in the village as well. Officers walking the beat on Main and Partition streets will be reaching out to the merchants, “as will I,” Sinagra said.
“We want to work with the merchants to help reduce crime,” Sinagra said. Police are planning a series of monthly meetings with the merchants to discuss their concerns. During the summer, in addition to the bicycle patrols, the police will also have plain-clothes cops working the streets, Sinagra said.
“We want to solve the problems before they happen,” he said.
Murphy welcomed the initiatives being set up by Sinagra and said they should go a long way toward keeping the village a safe place to live, work and do business.
Sinagra, a former deputy chief in the town of Ulster, was hired by Saugerties in December and is being groomed to take over from Police Chief Lou Barbaria when he retires later this year.