Story and photos by Terry Duffy
Youngstown residents turned out in force Tuesday to discuss a recent spike in home break-ins and burglaries of property in the village and what to do about it. A crowd of close to 100 filled the Cora Gushee Room at the Red Brick School Village Center, where Mayor Neil Riordan, Youngstown Police officials and Niagara County Sheriff's Office Administrative Capt. Mike Filicetti went over the problems and offered solutions and tips.
"We have a great level of interest here; it's indicative of the problem we've been contending with," said Riordan, noting that Niagara County District Attorney Michael Violanti was among those in attendance at the session.
Riordan told residents the village thus far has been responsive. He reported that Village of Youngstown Trustees recently added four new officers to the roster of the nine member, part-time Youngstown Police Department - all assigned to night-time patrols. Riordan also said the village, working with resident Adam Zerby, is in the process of reinstituting a neighborhood watch program, patterned after a successful venture in the past by resident Bernice Riches. And he said YPD is partnering more extensively with the Niagara County Sheriff's Office, State Police and other agencies to battle the crime problem. "There's someone on call all the time," said Riordan as he urged residents to be vigilant as well as proactive and contact police when there's a problem.
"We're here to listen to your concerns, to answer questions," said Youngstown Police Chief Chris Salada, who joined YPD Lt. Mike Schuey and Capt. Filicetti in the discussion. "I want to reassure you that even though this criminal activity is raised a bit, we are out there." Salada said YPD is now coordinating its work patrol schedules with NCSO, the State Police, State Parks Police, and the U.S. Border Patrol.
"Any marked unit that runs through here, we're coordinating with them to make sure there's someone through here, all the time," he said. And Salada urged the residents to call when there's a problem; 911 for emergencies, the NCSO at 438-3394 for non-emergencies, the YPD office at 745-3623, or that they can call a cell phone number that's connected directly to Youngstown patrol cars, 846-5138.
Above all Salada told residents they need to be vigilant. "Lock your homes at night, use a good quality deadbolt; lock your cars; take items out of plain view. Get rid of the obvious temptations."
Other security suggestions for residents included installing sensor lights, clearing bushes and other areas around houses that could provide cover, and for residents to let a trusted neighbor or YPD know when they'll be away.
Salada also advised residents to change up their routine. "Criminals look for patterns. They look for things, when you're home, when you're not."
"Don't be afraid to call the police," Salada emphasized, "Be the eyes and ears of your neighborhood. And don't be afraid to be interviewed. We want you to be a great witness.
"When you see something, call us, even if it's late at night."
In closing, Salada told residents that YPD is there to help, whether it's through the department's home check program; its RUOK program, a phone system that checks on the welfare of residents; or YPD's home security assessments of properties.
Filicetti reported that NCSO has been attentive in its responses to the Youngstown crimes. He said that in recent weeks NCSO has utilized a field intelligence officer in its investigations of crimes in the village. "His main job is to take all the calls that come in and analyze them, to see where the activity is occurring, when it is occurring, and any factors that are common when it is occurring," said Filicetti.
He said that, during the month of January, the Village of Youngstown property crimes included larcenies, criminal mischief, burglaries and attempted burglaries. "We plotted seven different times, all inclusive of that (larcenies, criminal mischief and burglaries). ... It may surprise you to know that it was on two separate dates, the property crimes."
Filicetti said those dates were Jan. 27 and Feb. 3. On Jan. 27, there were three different incidents - a cinder block thrown through a windshield on Carollwood Drive, a flowerpot used to smash a window on Chestnut Street, and a vehicle entered on Main Street. On Feb 3, incidents included a larceny on Jackson Street, and three vehicles entered on Main Street. "What that tells us ... we have one or two individuals ... that are doing this activity. One or two people on two separate nights."
"It may appear you're having a crime wave, but it can be one or two people," he said.
Filicetti reminded village residents that the onus on preventing crime lies with them. With all of these incidents "You're giving them the opportunity. When the opportunity is there, they are going to take it."
Again urging residents to call, Filicetti said, "You've got to remember we're covering the whole county; when we get a complaint that's where we go. So if Youngstown isn't calling us, we may not be coming through.
"But if things are going on, we're getting calls, you're going to see more sheriff's cars, more Youngstown cars, more State Police."
Filicetti said in addition to crime responses NCSO has stepped up patrols in the village with building checks - 46 conducted on visits during the month of January - and increased traffic enforcement activity with YPD.
Throughout the session, speakers urged citizen involvement, from calling 911 to participation in citizen watch groups.
"We want arrests, we want convictions," said Riordan.
"We need to watch out for each other; we need to start working together," said Jodee Riordan of the Youngstown Recreation Department on the need for citizen involvement.
And plans were announced for a new Youngstown Community Watch. Spearheaded by Zerby, its goals include:
•Immediate prevention of current crime, achieved through better working with law enforcement agencies to report what's going on in the area.
•Community outreach, which includes familiarizing others on the causes of crime and taking steps to prevent occurrences.
•Involvement and continuity, which includes maintaining the interest of residents and raising their participation in order to prevent crime from reoccurring.
For further information, Zerby can be reached at the YPD office number, 745-3623 or e-mail at [email protected]
"Residents need to be the eyes and ears," said Riches. "We have to start by watching out for each other."
"We've put forth an investment here, but we still need your help," closed Mayor Riordan as he urged residents' involvement. "By paying attention, we can get a handle on this."