As the number of reported shootings this summer in Kingston climbs, the mayor and police chief have announced a wide collaboration among law enforcement agencies to address crime in the city. The result will be more police officers visible on the streets to deter or prevent crime, and more personnel working on solving crimes that have already been committed. State troopers, sheriff’s deputies, Kingston city and Ulster town police will be involved in the effort, as well as staffers from the district attorney’s office. For the effort to be successful, however, public officials are urging members of the public to cooperate more with local officers.
According to Chief Egidio Tinti, “We’ve had three incidents that have resulted in people getting injured and one that resulted in a homicide,” since May. “The other 12 were reported shots fired confirmed either through physical evidence or eyewitness information.”
The push will begin this week and is scheduled to last for 10 weeks total.
The most recent shooting came Sunday night, Aug. 2, when shots were fired at an occupied residence at 34 East St. James Street, a residence that had been targeted previously in February. No one was hit in either incident.
The various personnel will be “working in coordination to focus our policing efforts to prevent future violent incidents, as well as assisting in investigative work to solve the recent rash of crimes,” according to the statement released yesterday. Additional patrols and investigative units will come from state police, a special investigator from the district attorney’s office will be assigned specifically to Kingston crimes. Sheriff Juan Figueroa said his office will provide additional road patrols, including a K-9, a double unit and supporting investigators.
“The inter-agency collaboration will essentially a use a three-prong approach,” explained Tinti in an email. “Uniformed, street-level patrols, narcotics investigations, and community outreach. This approach has successfully worked in other jurisdictions like Newburgh. Much of the success rests with the community supporting the efforts of law enforcement.”
Tinti said last month that he was requesting additional resources to aid in the investigations; this appears to be the answer to that call. In the released statement, the chief said, “Our department is well-equipped but the number of incidents has overwhelmed our resources. Having the additional assistance will mean more officers for increased street presence and the behind-the-scenes investigations.”
Both Mayor Steve Noble and County District Attorney David Clegg are framing this is a problem with gun violence and drug trafficking alike, with Clegg maintaining that there are only a “small number of offenders responsible for these crimes.”
Asked to elaborate on that position, Clegg responded via email to say, “The law enforcement effort that we’re now engaged in Kingston will be very targeted and based upon intelligence garnered from ongoing investigations of drug trafficking and gun violence. Investigators and ADAs from my office have been involved in these ongoing investigations. In Kingston, only a relatively small number of persons, less than 1%, are engaged in the majority of serious crimes. Within that small population an even smaller number of highly active “impact players” are responsible for most of the violence, whether by instigating violence or committing the violence themselves. The policing effort to reduce gun violence and the trafficking of illegal drugs will focus on such individuals.”
Community cooperation a challenge
Cooperating with police to solve these crimes is a theme hit on by the mayor, as well as the Common Council members quoted in the statement. Rennie Scott-Childress is seeking to remind residents of the positive track record of their local officers, and Tony Davis is calling for Kingstonians to “bridge the divide and bring peace to our streets together.” Noble, too, emphasized the need to work with law enforcement personnel. Tinti has spoken about the lack of public support and interaction in the wake of the nationwide tensions that erupted after George Floyd was killed by an officer in Minneapolis.
Fair or not, the generalized mistrust of police has made solving these crimes in Kingston more challenging, and more police on the streets is being proposed at a time when many activists are saying that police may solve crime, but they do not prevent it. “We are taking a two-prong approach,” said Noble. “One, we will have more officers on patrol to prevent and react to crime, and we have additional officers helping with the ongoing investigations. We also know that the public will have a big role in breaking this cycle of violence. We have some wonderful community groups who are holding rallies and calling on their community and neighbors to stop the violence. This is the type of community action that will help our efforts.”
Tinti is more skeptical of the idea that police don’t prevent crime. “Police presence is a deterrent to some crimes. Would you drive right through a red light if a patrol car was right behind you? But, since police can’t be everywhere all the time, we do end up trying to solve crimes after they occur. What helps solve those crimes is community support and involvement, technology when eyewitnesses are not available and rapid response to the scene of the crime.”
The chief said there are differing opinions on putting more officers on the street. “Some community members do not want an increased police presence. Some want more of a police presence. But both want a safer community. We are trying to balance both. That is our end goal.”
“We know we have work to do in building trust between law enforcement and the community,” Noble said asked to comment on that relationship. “We have taken measures over the last several years to bridge this divide, and we have just announced the Re-envision Public Safety Task Force, which will take a new approach to community safety and offer suggestions for real change. In the meantime, these gun violence events have become frequent and scary. As the mayor, it is my duty to keep my residents safe, and I believe these reinforcements are what we need right now. These are law enforcement organizations that we know and have collaborated with and know our city – these are not federal agents.
“A respectful dialogue can only come with trust,” said Noble. “We are making inroads into the community, and we also know that issues of food and housing insecurity, along with lack of job and other opportunities plays a big role here. Those are issues my office tries to tackle each day. My door is always open, and I will listen and hear all concerns.”
“We have been working on respectful dialogue for many years,” said Tinti. “We’ve held community forums at locations throughout the city for members of the public to voice their concerns. I’ve had meetings with small groups to help bridge the perceived cop-community gap. Our officers have attended and participated in numerous trainings in an effort to improve their ability to communicate with community members including local training like the ‘peaceful guardian’ program. In the end, street-level dialogue between officers and community members provides the avenue to better relationships. One of the focus points of the upcoming partnered detail will be street-level dialogue and community engagement.”
Asked about paying for this initiative, Tinti explained, “Funding for any of the partnered assignments are coming out of our current operating budget. Officers are being reassigned when possible. In some cases, officers will be brought in on overtime to fill some vacancies.”