Following two homicides, Saugerties police chief discusses domestic violence problem

Police chief Joseph Sinagra

Police chief Joseph Sinagra. (photo by David Gordon)

Domestic abuse and violence can destroy a family, or rip a couple apart, and in its most extreme form can lead to violent death. Last month two Saugerties people were killed during incidents of domestic violence.

In one case, Rameen Perry was stabbed to death because of an alleged love triangle, and Amy Burger was shot to death when, authorities say, her former boyfriend decided that if he couldn’t have her no one could. The two alleged perpetrators, Earl Edwards in the Perry case and Karon Bowden in the Burger case, have both pleaded innocent to charges stemming from the homicides. Both are current residents of the Ulster County Jail.

Saugerties police chief Joseph Sinagra said he believes that Saugerties ranks only behind Kingston in the number of domestic incidents it handles during the year. Saugerties police statistics show that in 2014 the department handled 298 cases. Last year that number declined to 278. Police believe that increased education efforts led to that decline, and they are hoping for a similar reduction this year.


However, this year’s two homicides stand out. Both Sinagra and Ulster County DA Holley Carnright say that the extremes that Edwards and Bowden allegedly took their domestic violence to are more common in larger cities where violence is more prevalent. But the two incidents graphically point out that it can happen here.

And it’s not just the two homicides that police had to deal with this year. There are a host of various levels of abuse and violence, which women, men and children face every day. Few days pass when police authorities don’t issue a press release about a domestic abuse incident that has turned violent.

“We take domestic violence very seriously here in Saugerties,” Sinagra said during a recent interview. Sinagra last year painted a patrol car purple in recognition of domestic violence. There are phone numbers on the car that let those who experience domestic abuse or violence know that there is help out there. All they need do is make a telephone call.

And despite the violence of the two Saugerties incidents, Sinagra said that he believes education is the answer to reducing the number of cases.

For Saugerties and the district attorney’s office those educational efforts begin in the schools, where officers, social workers from the county, and school officials present programs that teach students there are better ways to work out problems than through violence. Violence doesn’t need to be part of any life.

Sinagra, Carnright, other police chiefs, and the Ulster County Social Services Department are part of the Inter-Agency Council on Domestic Violence, which produces educational programs for schools and community groups, and works cooperatively to develop ideas on what to stem domestic abuse and violence.

In Saugerties, Sinagra sends his officers to special training on dealing with domestic abuse and violence issues, and the aftermath of such events. “We try to start young,” Sinagra said of his department’s efforts to stem reduce domestic abuse, “as young as students in the elementary and middle schools.”

“We try to teach them about healthy relationships, and that we are there to help is needed,” Sinagra added.

The county government recently held a contest for teens to create a short film on how to deal with bullying and teen violence. The winning film is being shown in schools throughout the county. “We want to stop abuse in its early stages,” Carnright added.

Sinagra suggests that “we have to wake up as a county that there are issues out there that might be contributing factors to domestic abuse, such as economic conditions.”

Carnright agreed. When his department brings domestic abuse and violence arrests before judges, he said, it’s important that the judiciary set bail on these individuals to get them out of the workplace, or out of households where the abuse is taking place. He credited Saugerties town and village municipal judges of understanding the importance of such efforts and doing the right thing when it comes to arraigning the perpetrators of these crimes and setting bail.

The DA’s office has also applied for funding that will allow for the creation of a data base of domestic abuse and violence arrests. Expert analysis will help police and the DA’s office target pockets of domestic incidents.

Numerous agencies and programs in Ulster County aid the victims of abuse. Their phone numbers are listed on the Saugerties police webpage, the county government’s website, and on the purple Saugerties police car.

“Just talk to a cop, we’re here to help,” Sinagra said.