Alcohol is the number one date-rape drug, involved in roughly 50 percent of sexual assaults, according to American Addiction Centers, Inc. With that sobering statistic in mind, the county executive’s office is expanding its program to combat sex crimes in local communities by training bar and restaurant staff methods to spot it and then stop it in its tracks.
The Ulster County Bystanders Against Sexual Assault training program has been employed in New Paltz and Kingston, where members of the Ulster County Crime Victim Assistance Program have taught “bystander” techniques to 46 front-of-house staff members from nine bars. The next session will take place in Saugerties at Sue’s Restaurant on Jan. 23. Ahead of that, owners and managerial staff from Rock Da Casbah, Diamond Mills, El Rancho, Annarella Ristorante and Sue’s recently attended an informational meeting at Saugerties Police headquarters about the program, along with Saugerties Police Chief Joe Sinagra, Town Supervisor Fred Costello Jr., Ulster County Chief of Staff and Deputy County Executive Adele Reiter, deputy county executives Ken Crannell and Marc Rider and Assistant District Attorney Katherine Van Loan.
“The traditional way to look at that is to expect victims to stop crime from happening to themselves. That doesn’t always work,” said program coordinator Sarah Kramer-Harrison. “People aren’t in danger if they’re drinking, or if they have short skirts or if they’re out late — they’re only in danger if they’re out there with someone who wants to commit a crime. We believed that it was important to create a proactive program in Ulster County to inform bystanders of what to look for and how they might be able to assist in deterring a possible sexual assault at their establishment.”
Kramer-Harrison spoke of the program’s success in New Paltz, where she said, as an example, that bouncers and staff at bars P&G’s and McGillicuddy’s have begun to signal one another from across Main Street to warn each other of possible would-be assaulters. The sessions generally take a little over two hours, and are loosely modeled after Training for Intervention Procedures (TIPS) programs, which teach restaurant employees how to responsibly sell and serve alcohol.
“I am ecstatic to once again be working with Ulster County in providing yet another program to enhance the safety of our community and visitors,” said Sinagra, who promised to personally bankroll lunch for participants of the free training sessions. “The UCBASA program is one more step toward protecting vulnerable individuals from sexual assault. To partner with local bars and restaurants in this effort truly epitomizes the concerns we all share in ensuring the safety of all patrons visiting our bars and restaurants.”
Sinagra noted a rise in sexual assault incidents, as well as incidents involving substances put into drinks, in Saugerties bars and night haunts in conjunction with a rise in patronage.
Those interested in the program can make contact with Kramer-Harrison at Ulster County Crime Victims Assistance Programs via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at (845) 340-3445.
“I think it’s a worthwhile effort on our part. We want to maintain our reputation as a safe community to dine in and go out in,” said Town Supervisor Costello.