Lucchesi takes the reins

Robert Lucchesi (photo by Terence P. Ward)

According to newly anointed New Paltz Police chief Rob Lucchesi, the department is seeing a decrease in DUIs and calls and arrests that might typically occur due to alcohol-related activity in and around the bar scene, which has been shut down since mid-March. On the flip side, the police have been seeing a noticeable increase in petty larceny in supermarkets and grocery stores, as well as car break-ins and person-to-person thefts, but a decrease in residential robberies.

“Countywide, we’re seeing an increase in substance-abuse-related calls and opioid overdoses,” said the chief, who noted that his staff is working closely with local and county agencies to provide information “on prevention, education and virtual training. We’ve been doing a lot of virtual courses on how to use Narcan, which we’ve had a great response to. Mental health calls are also up. People are struggling.” The chief said that his department is in constant contact with the New Paltz Emergency Preparedness Committee to address all communitywide issues brought on by the COVID-19 health crisis, including that of mental health, with the social isolation, loss of employment or school, fear and anxiety that have come hand-in-hand with the response to the virus.

In terms of domestic violence – a particular area of concern, with so many people either working from home or having been laid off due to the societal shutdown – the chief said that, while the numbers “of domestic calls have remained relatively the same, the nature of the calls have involved more physical assaults, obstruction of airways…Numbers are not always a reflection of what is actually happening.” To that end, he said, his staff “is being very thorough with every call.”

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NPPD offices are still closed to the public, but according to Lucchesi, “We are doing our walking patrols, our bike patrols. We are actively engaged in the community, passing out masks, letting people know that we’re here. We’re not being as proactive with moving violations as we normally would be, but we’re reacting when we need to.”

Asked how he believes his department should move forward as we head towards Month Three of the COVID-19 health crisis and shelter-in-place orders, he said, “We need to approach people with compassion and understanding. These are very difficult times.”