New Paltz public officials have promised that the conversation on police reform is going to continue after a mandated report is filed next month, and it looks like they are being held to account. Speaking for Ulster Activists, Tom Jeliffe reminded town council members on February 18 that this is a group where re-imagining the role of police has been given a high priority. Jeliffe said that they are looking at ways to reduce police without reducing safety. Police represent a significant amount of the town budget, but only about two-and-a-half percent of the incidents involve violent crimes. Some 4,000 calls a year are checks on vacant property, for which an armed response may be excessive. Fully 40% of calls take place in the bar district of the village on weekend overnights; Jeliffe characterized this as a “subsidized security force” for tavern owners. Despite that bar-district concentration, crime rates have been dropping over a long period of time, even as the number of officers has continued to climb. Factoring in both university and town police, there are 3.3 officers for every thousand residents. That’s higher than in Kingston, where the crime rate is higher.
Jeliffe also explained that the most common crime reported, larceny, is also one of the most difficult to solve using police work. It may be prevented, however, by spending more on programs designed to lift people out of the poverty and crisis that drives them to steal in the first place.