More cameras on Main
Village of Patchogue officials look to combat crime with surveillance
A camera will be placed in the Roe Walkway this month, as will about five others by summer’s end.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t soon enough for the Roe Walkway victim who was assaulted in an LGBT-targeted crime last month and the two victims who were stabbed outside of a Main Street restaurant on July 25. The first action was not caught on camera, however, an image of the suspect was captured. The second incident was caught on camera.
According to SCPD inspector William Silva, commanding officer of the Fifth Precinct, the footage was much clearer than the images released and both incidents, though still active and ongoing investigations, have very promising leads.
“The cameras give much clearer photo quality,” he said, “but of course that varies based on the time of night and weather.”
Once the camera project is complete, Jim Berberich, director of public safety, said there would be about 19 views on Main Street alone. Access, he said, is given directly to the police, with which public safety has a very “good working relationship.”
For the first time this year, mayor Paul Pontieri said, the police were patched into the cameras from headquarters and stationed with command quarters at Alive After Five.
“The cameras are our best tool at reducing crime,” Silva said. “If the camera doesn’t catch the action or they are wearing a mask, we can follow the other cameras to the point where the person [was at one point or] is putting on that mask.”
Cameras are also located in most parks, the sewage treatment facility and the public pool located on Maiden Lane. The village is currently working on installing additional cameras at all the parks. All cameras in the village are paid for through grants, the Business Improvement District or the Community Development Agency.
New locations, according to BID executive director Dennis Smith, will include all the walkways on Main and views to the parking lots. Complications to overcome, he said, include connectivity and permission from building owners to install.
The role of Public Safety
Public Safety officers, according to Berberich, are not authorized to handle anything criminal; instead, they are code enforcement, allowed to write tickets for open alcohol, public urination and such.
“They are the eyes and ears of the police department,” he said, explaining that when they see something, they are trained to call SCPD and wait. “We work very closely with them.”
Back in 2004, Pontieri said, he made the decision to unarm his men. “If they were armed, we would have a bigger problem,” he said, explaining that the police undergo extensive training that is just not feasible for the village. “They would get in the way of the police rather than help.”
Patchogue, Silva said, has been growing at a tremendous rate. With that in mind, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, several vehicles are assigned to patrol through the village on the weekends and in that general location. Though Suffolk County has no foot patrol officers, he said, he does have one officer who is assigned a foot patrol to meet with residents and shop owners to address issues like the homeless population.
“It’s about being there and stopping any nefarious activity before it occurs,” he said.
Response time, he added, is very rapid with their location right on Waverly Avenue. All local officials, he said, have his cell phone number and when anything happens, he takes care of it by sending someone out immediately.
The operations and hours of local bars are regulated by the State Liquor Authority, which preempts the village from regulating hours, or setting curfew. Currently under the SLA, bars can serve alcohol until last call at 4 a.m.
SCPD officers, Silva said, are instructed to enforce the law and are constantly monitoring.
“The smartest thing you can do is go home,” Pontieri said, explaining that both incidents happened late at night and into the early hours of the morning. “Nothing good comes from being out that late.”
If you see something, call 911 immediately. To report an SLA infraction, visit www.sla.ny.gov/enforcement.
What the chamber is doing
There are currently about 30 restaurants on or near Main Street, most of which, if not all, are members of the chamber and members of the restaurant committee. A handful, according to executive director David Kennedy, stays open past 2 a.m., though it is discouraged.
The restaurant committee, he said, is constantly monitoring issues and meeting to discuss safety. Most restaurants use the PSA security company, he said, which helps with communication. When an issue arises or someone is causing a problem, all the bars are alerted in an attempt to prevent crime or disturbances.
Also, as a requirement of participating in Alive After Five, all bars and restaurants must use Safer Bar, a bystander intervention program designed for staff at alcohol-serving establishments, and TIPS, a certified online responsible-alcohol-training program that is designed to prevent intoxication, underage drinking, and drunk driving.
“Adding more cameras just makes sense,” he said. “We need to make sure Patchogue is a fun and safe place to be.”
The chamber, he said, is also trying to enforce a “cool down” period after Alive After Five for next year, where bars are required to calm down with a 30-minute period of time with no music or alcohol.
“It will give public safety a chance to clear everyone out and calm down,” he added.
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