‘Aggressive’ panhandling and harassment in Uptown Kingston prompts police response

At a meeting of about two dozen Uptown residents and business owners at Dominick’s Café on Wall Street late this past Monday afternoon, Kingston police chief Egidio Tinti said that he had deployed foot patrols in the city’s Stockade district in response to complaints about aggressive panhandling and other disruptive behavior by people who are either homeless or residents of nearby boarding houses or supportive housing. But Tinti said there was only so much police could do without the public’s assistance.

“People have the right to walk around,” Tinti told the meeting. “When they cross the line into criminal behavior, that’s when we can step in, but only if we know about it.”

The meeting was organized by Mike Locasio, owner of the Ink Inc. tattoo parlor on Wall Street. Locasio said that he and other Uptown merchants had grown concerned over what appeared to be a spike in incidents involving apparently mentally ill individuals who frequent the benches and open spaces on Wall and North Front streets in the Stockade business district. Attendees at the community meeting described incidents ranging from aggressive panhandling to petty theft to harassment of patrons at outdoor cafes.

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“It’s definitely gotten worse,” said Locasio. “I’ve been up here for 22 years and I’ve never seen it this bad.”

In response to the complaints, Tinti said, he had directed the KPD’s patrol division to conduct a walking patrol of the neighborhood three times daily. The walking post utilizes officers assigned to “community-oriented policing.” 

On each day shift, Tinti explained, one officer is freed from responding to routine calls for service to carry out policing efforts like attending block parties, walking a foot post or speaking to community groups. But Tinti said, the community officer’s time, already limited, had now been expanded to include patrolling the newly opened Kingston rail-trail. Overall, Tinti said, the KPD is down to 71 officers from 80 a decade ago, making it more difficult to carry out more directed enforcement action.

“I can’t put an officer up here all the time,” Tinti said. “Financially, that’s just not feasible for us.” 

Tinti and detective sergeant Brian Robertson urged business owners to call police to report harassment and other illegal activity. Creating an official record of complaints, Robertson said, would allow police to take action in cases where behavior crossed the line. For example, Robertson said, if a business owner had previously informed police that a person was not welcome in their establishment, the next time they showed up they could be arrested for trespassing. 

Robertson said that the purpose of police intervention was not to incarcerate vulnerable people, but hopefully to connect them with services. “Our goal is to divert that arrest into something that can help them, not jail,”  he said. “I don’t think anyone wants to see a person with a mental-health issue go to jail, but we need some teeth so we can get them that help.”

There are 30 comments

  1. Dale

    YUP.
    And the “activists” who don’t want to see new development, new residents, and new businesses Uptwon need to know that the thing that will help improve are new projects like The Kingstonian.

    Police – Crack down hard.
    Developers – Get these new projects built.
    Housing Advocates – do something about the drunks and aggressive panhandlers – stop harrassing hardworking people making a living Uptown.

    1. harold

      Agreed, they should be sent to an established work, labor camp. These are losers and bums who choose their own life.

      i choose to work 2 jobs 84 hours per week and dont wish to give my money to bums seeking a free ride.

      Working people dont have the luxury to sit around do drugs, drink and beg from others.

      1. AdrienneM

        How the hell do you know he doesn’t choose to work two jobs?
        Some people actually like to work hard to get ahead, not just survive.

      2. harold

        Not true i own a business i earn $185,000 per year. Also i went to college and hold a masters degree.

        My second job keeps me busy for fun, i enjoy work, im not a lazy druggie homeless bum.

  2. harold

    These are addicted heroin addicts, alcoholics, losers, and most likely mentally ill. Local store owners should hire private security to keep these bums out of their stores, off public sidewalks, and stop the endless begging from sick loser bums.

    If a dog begs for food it is wrong. Dont give them money, dont give them food, it is wrong to beg. Dont feel sorry for them or their choices.

    1. harold

      Not true, people make their own choices. Send the homeless to a forced labor camp. mentally ill is an excuse, mentally ill or not people must work.

      Dont ever give money or food to these druggie bums, send them to nearest shelter.

    2. Sue Za

      When Heinn closed down the mental health circuit, it was reported in the paper, and commented on as well by a ADA qualified reader. But Heinn was so proud, he even had appear with him the County health director Palin, what’s his name, the county health director stayed four months and then moved out of the county to Minnesota? Now you never hear from the current county health director, some chic in her office, waiting it all out. There’s plenty of money laying around in the county, but the county executive hasn’t got a clue, as he thinks Democracy is a “team-sport”?
      I’m getting out my Marine Band harmonica to restore my faith in the military.

      1. haorld

        If theirs money give it back to tax payers directly. Establish work camps of forced labor. No person is denied the right to work, so make them work, mentally ill no excuse to be a lazy bum.

        Store owners should hire security to keep begging homeless bums off their private land. Raise prices if necessary, i am willing to pay more to keep the begging smelly mentally ill bums out.

        USA is by no means an equal society. We are not a social state, too bad for the losers.

  3. Dwayne

    Hasn’t that area always had problems with mentally ill / addicts? As long as I can remember (going back to at least 2005), the Eastern (Hannaford’s) end of Kingston Plaza has been overrun with clearly disturbed people. Very unsettling and often scary, causing me to avoid that general vicinity. I assumed there was some kind of treatment center or mental health facility in the area. Surprising that it’s only now being considered a problem in the Uptown district.

  4. Aphrodite

    This is a very tough nut to crack. Many of these people live in Uptown and have been here since before the ‘renaissance’ that Kingston currently enjoys. Uptown was long a dumping ground for the mentally ill, sexual predators, and drug addicts.

    The real problem is that these folks have nowhere else to go – no programs in place to give them activity or purpose. So, they haunt the public spaces – sit on benches and congregate in pocket parks. Some laugh or shout into nothingness and to no one in particular. The majority are harmless and they really aren’t breaking any laws.

    But it’s a problem.

    I’m the first to admit that I hate to be accosted if I am dining at a sidewalk table or hit up for money as I leave an Uptown shop. Yesterday, we shopped and dined outside in Rhinebeck and it was a relief to not have to worry about either.

    This falls directly on the shoulders of the county. They alone have the power and the money to effect change. Charitable groups at the local level can only provide a band-aid, despite their good intentions.

    We need to get this on the County Executive’s radar and demand action. Maybe we can shelve some rail trails or bicycle lanes and instead focus on providing help for some of our neediest residents.

      1. harold

        Than You give Your money away to lazy bums. Dont tax me. Life is not fair, their are winners and losers. We are not equal, some choose to work, others choose to be drug addicts and bums.

        We all have choices, We all make decisions, We are responsible for our own lives.

        NO FREE WELFARE RIDE FOR ANYONE.

    1. Gandalf

      “Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then be not so eager to deal out death IN JUDGEMENT. For even the wisest cannot see all ends.”

  5. Annette Galluccio

    These people are not homeless and have been living in the uptown area for a long time. We are lucky that there are programs available to these “homeless beggars” because it would be a lot worse. Where else would you people have them? Yes they are mentally ill but they are being cared for. Also they most likely get drug tested randomly in order to keep their housing.

  6. Aldo

    Not everyone who begs for money is a heroin addict an alcoholic or mentally unstable people lose jobs and homes for many other reasons domestic violence low job wages don’t judge someone until you walk in their shoes

    1. harold

      Most people not homless, most people dont loose their job, most people dont have these problems.

      USA not a socialistic state, You work and You make Your own way. Excuses mean nothing and no one cares. People have their own problems.

      Only a bum would beg and or accept and public charity. Get a job and shut up, no one cares, we all have problems.

      work hard, save your money. Dont do drugs, dont beg and keep your problems to yourself. No free ride.

  7. Circus

    Some of the panhandlers aren’t homeless. They live in a group home that has strict standards of behavior. Perhaps getting to know them and making a simple phone call might help.

    People don’t choose mental illness. Have a little compassion.

  8. Patricia page

    You really wanna know the truth Kingston has been turning into Newburgh and Poughkeepsie just think about it Hyde Park they used to have all these buildings over there on route nine that were all the mentally ill lived they close that down they took them people and they spread them all over the place and then let them roam the streets they put them in these facilities they get paid well for it they have them out there stinking P in their pants drawling on themselves talking to themselves because of the medication that they have them on and they just throw them out there and to society these people don’t know what to do they walk in circles they beg for money it’s sad Kingston is one of them that is one of the saddest little towns that there is pedophiles out here every where you look they should be put in one place in one place only and the mentally ill forget about it I’m sorry to say it God forgive me but yet the mentally L should have a place like they used to in Hyde Park and put them there because that’s where they need to be sorry but not sorry look at the murder that just happened right here in Kingston right by the traffic circle that was a safe haven for people that was homeless to go out there and tent and live try to live in the bitter cold I’ve seen in the last couple years and it’s sad not that the people are druggies they just struggle struggle on the income and the places that are out here for rent is out rages for the prices no one can live in an apartment when they are charging $1000 for a studio and above no one can do it Kingston is just turning into a slim whole Newburg is looking better even the Kipsey they have things for children to do free of charge to go play under the sprinklers they were parks where are you and Kingston when I was a kid they had a pool right here at Academy green park right there but now we got his dates we got a pay for it not everyone has the money to pay for it tomorrow they start having things out there free for the kids free things for them to do not just sit in the house playing on video games or being out on the streets deal and that’s how it starts nothing for the children to do no imagination that’s our future

    1. Mercy Frankel

      It is horrific the way children of this area are being treated – and their families. If you ask me, the ones who have the most potential to do great – for themselves, their families and their communities – is hands down the children of lower income families who are given the resource to fuel their drive to succeed and the curiosity to tackle challenges.

  9. Patricia page

    And the person that allegedly murdered that guy by the traffic cycle his name is lance Fergason that man was taken off all his psych medications thrown out of a couple of shelters had to live in the woods but point being is the dude needed help they took him off his medications and this is what they do to the mentally L like I said they should’ve never closed on that building and I park they shouldn’t be renovated it and put the people back in there not that they’re all that way but you never never never never take a person that is Mentally LL off of the medication and expect them to be OK because they’re not they’re on it for a reason and when you take them off see the repercussions of become of it blame this on Kingston New York that’s what Kingston New York’s coming to

  10. As Always JamaicaOnHudson

    Ya know, after reading the article, it occurs to me that both the “locals” and the “citiots” are the problem…
    Neither side has any real vision, compassion, or decency. They’re just jockeying for power and circling the wagons.

    Predictably myopic, at best.

    #StopComplainingAboutProblemsYOUCreated

  11. Alonzo Typer

    First off, the majority of these folks in question have been in and around uptown for the better part of the last 20 years or more. They are a direct result of Reagan emptying the mental hospitals that used to exist in the area. These folks are just as much a part of Uptown Kingston as Mike’s tattoo shop.
    Furthermore, I find it ironic that Mike Locassio, who drove drunk and took out the light post by the DMV, (which was never replaced yet btw) and had his cop buddies help clean and cover it up so he didn’t get his license taken away for it is gonna call a meeting to complain about the mentally ill folks who live nearby.
    Who’s the real problem here? The mentally ill who were displaced and left to fend mostly for themselves, or the local business owner(s) who drive drunk and risk life and limb then have their corrupt cop friends cover it up?
    Let’s talk about the real issues at hand, and not the one’s that sketchy business owners feel are stifling their profits.

  12. Mike Wilson

    Mentally ill – homeless sympathizers, is there any chance one or two of them can stay with you, in your home or apt? Maybe pitch a tent in your backyard? #talkischeap

  13. sally

    This is a disgrace. Kingston is a city, and in cities we have all kinds of people. Just because Uptown residents are used to being in their bubble, does not mean they have the right to call anyone who isn’t upper middle class “homeless.”

    Life is hard. Some folks don’t make it into the white fenced historic charm homes that line the blocks of Uptown. Many of the people being discussed in this article have names, lives, and stories. You can’t just send people to jail because they don’t have homes. You can’t assume all folks that are homeless are drug addicts. This isn’t the 1970’s! Compassion should be at the heart of all the work we do in our communities.

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