The Saugerties Police Department will be the first law enforcement agency in New York to roll out the national Lights On! program, which will issue driver’s vouchers instead of tickets when they are stopped for minor mechanical violations.
As part of the program, Sawyer Motors and Steyer’s Hudson Valley Auto Inc. in Saugerties will be working alongside police to repair broken headlights, taillights or brake lights at no cost to the driver.
Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagra said the program’s purpose is twofold: It cuts struggling motorists a break and improves relationships between the public and police.
“It’s for those who are forced to decide between repairing the vehicle or putting food on the table or buying diapers for the baby, so the focus is really on those who can’t afford to make these minor repairs, especially now with the added financial problems brought about by COVID-19,” said Sinagra.
Sinagra said once the program gets going on June 1, officers will have the discretion during routine stops to issue vouchers instead of citations for the mechanical violations.
“We are proud to be the first police department in New York state to implement this innovative program,” he said. “A citation for these minor offenses can lead to further financial strain and will most likely lead to additional confrontations with law enforcement. This is a well-intended effort to help our community members.”
Lights On! is community funded and free to police departments and voucher recipients. The initial funding is made possible through First Responders Children’s Foundation CSX Pride in Service grant.
“As a foundation, one of our missions is to create strong relationships with first responder agencies and partnerships within the community,” said Jillian Crane President of First Responders Children’s Foundation. “Lights On! is a perfect example of these relationships….Instead of ticketing people for trying to do the best they can, First Responders Children’s Foundation, the Saugerties Police Department, Sawyer car dealership and Steyer’s Auto want to create positive relationships and trust between the police and community. Giving a coupon to fix a taillight instead of a ticket is one small way that police can say that we care about you and we understand.”
Bob Siracusano, owner of Sawyer Motors, said when Sinagra approached him about being involved in the program, he jumped at the opportunity.
“We’re always on board with initiatives like this to help our community,” Siracusano said. “The pandemic has only made things worse for people, and we want to do what we can to ease their burden. We are a close-knit community in Saugerties. We take care of each other. We lift each other up. That’s why we’re happy to participate.”
Steyer’s Hudson Valley Auto Inc. vice president Stephanie Steyer said “we are a five-generation family business in Saugerties, so we understand families and the struggles they face. Anything we can do to help our neighbors; we are more than willing.”
Sinagra said one of the most important components of the program is to have trusted auto repair centers behind it, to get the repairs done in a timely fashion. The vouchers must be redeemed within 14 days of issuance, or they are voided.
Sinagra added that he hopes to see other law-enforcement agencies in the region get on board.
“We want to see it grow,” Sinagra said. “I’ve already talked with the sheriff’s office and state police Troop F, and there is interest. I’d ultimately like to see it become a statewide program.”
The program is completely free, up to $250, for voucher recipients and is supported by community in-kind and financial donations. To learn more or donate, visit LightsOnUS.Org.