Saugerties crime rate falls sharply

The Saugerties Police Department (photo by Alen Fetahi)

The Saugerties Police Department (photo by Alen Fetahi)

Saugerties is following the trend.

“Nationally crime is down,” said Police Chief Joe Sinagra, “and even the city of Kingston reported less overall crime.”

And though most associate a poor economy with increased crime, Sinagra said sometimes, as in our case, the opposite is true. “People realize that there is nothing to steal here,” he said.

Though narcotics arrests are down 20 percent, the chief highlighted drugs as an issue the department wants to focus on.


“[Drugs] are a problem here,” said Sinagra. “The problem is not yet a plague, but I don’t want it here in our community.”

Forty-four were arrested for narcotics in 2013 compared to 35 the previous year. Marijuana possession arrests fell by one, 64 to 65.

Sinagra, who worked a number of undercover narcotics operations in Orange County while an officer with the Town of Ulster Police Department, said his officers are seeing heroin, cocaine, crack, LSD and MDMA on the streets.

The chief said he recently sat down with the State Police, the City of Kingston Narcotics Unit and Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team (U.R.G.E.N.T.) to develop operational plans regarding drug law enforcement.

“I want all of us working together on this,” he said.

Total arrests decreased seven percent (661 to 614); felony arrests 44 percent (82 to 46), and misdemeanors 16 percent (341 to 287).

DWI arrests are down ten percent, 81 to 66.

Part of the reduction could be due to tough enforcement. In addition to two large DWI checkpoints operated in conjunction with State Police, sheriff’s deputies, and Town of Ulster Police, individual officers have contributed. For the last two years, two Saugerties patrol officers have led the county officers in the number of DWI arrests and this year a Saugerties officer is expected to do it again.

Then again, arrests could be falling for another reason altogether: social media. “As soon as we set up a checkpoint, the news and our location is all over Twitter,” Sinagra said. This has forced the police to conduct moving checkpoints. “We’ll set up in one place, and as soon as we see that it’s on Twitter, we change locations.”

Two statistics that have increased dramatically are the number of parking tickets issued and the number of warnings given out.

Warnings are issued in lieu of traffic tickets. In the past, officers didn’t issue many — or least didn’t keep track of them. There were just 43 in the 2012 report while last year officers handed out 542.

Parking tickets were up 50 percent: 1,169 to 1,767. Sinagra attributes this to police taking over this function from a village meter worker who worked fewer hours.

The department also is using four volunteer officers, who are not paid but ride with full-time officers to boost patrols.

“We had a good year in 2013, but we can do better,” Sinagra said. He asks residents who have suggestions or complaints, or even good things to say, to call him at 246-9800. “We want to know if there is anything we can do better.”

“We need to do this together, residents, merchants and police, to make Saugerties safer,” he added.

All numbers represent arrests made by the town department. Figures for arrests made in Saugerties by the State Police and Sheriff’s Patrol aren’t in yet.

Another large increase came from the way calls for police assistance were recorded. In the past, if an officer stopped to help a motorist change a tire or assisted on a fire call, it was not logged; now all officer calls are recorded, which resulted in a whopping increase in so-called blotter complaints from 8,221 in 2012 to 17,247 last year.