Editorial by Chris Salada
Chief of Police
Lewiston Police Department
I have been a Lewiston Police officer since 1990 and, in my career, I have had the pleasure of conversing with thousands of residents. One of the topics usually covered in our conversation, especially if the resident is new to Lewiston, is the question of why do you choose to live in Lewiston. A variety of answers, like the quaintness, friendly community, beautiful surroundings, its history and many other reasons are thrown out there. But in one constant statement from those I speak with is, "We're living here because Lewiston is a safe community."
How do you put a dollar amount on keeping your family and your possessions safe from the criminal element that no community is immune from? This is not to say by any means that the police department disburses its budget allotment frivolously.
On the contrary, every year I have been chief of police I have proposed a stringent budget so we can provide the best achievable 24-hours-a-day/seven-days-a-week protection to our Lewiston residents, while working out the best possible way to keep to a minimum, the costs that can be controlled.
Every year prior to budget time, each Town of Lewiston supervisor or the budget officer would advise how much they needed cut from the budget and every year certain things were always cut. This is why grant writing has become second nature within our department in order to get updated equipment, training and overtime, that otherwise would be cost prohibitive. This is evident when you see our speed signs, 4-wheelers, Segway, building generator, certain patrol cars, ballistic vests, license plate readers, surveillance cameras and all were acquired on grants.
In 2012, The Lewiston Village Board of Trustees looked at options regarding the possibility of replacing the 24-hour coverage provided by the Lewiston police and supplementing with eight- or maybe 16-hours-a-day coverage by the sheriff's department. The sheriff and undersheriff supplied the village trustees with the cost of the requested coverage only. No offer to take over the police department was made.
Once the public was aware of the possible change, they filled the village boardroom during the regular meeting and said "No" to the change in service. The residents enjoy knowing the officer who is patrolling their neighborhoods, knowing that the officer will know who belongs in the neighborhood or who is a stranger, and knowing each officer by their first name so that they can chat about any problems occurring.
The Lewiston Police Department is an extremely busy and active small town police department. We are responsible for patrolling 64 squares miles from the Village of Lewiston to Sanborn. We are first responders to 12 schools (including Niagara University), St. Mary's Hospital, the New York Power Authority, the Lewiston Queenston Bridge, the Niagara River and many other critical infrastructures within our jurisdiction.
In Niagara County your 911 Emergency phone calls are answered by the Niagara County Sheriff's Department. NCSD then logs the call and dispatches the appropriate agency within their jurisdiction. For 2013, Niagara County Sheriff's Office logged 9,535 complaints for the Town/Village of Lewiston for the year. From Jan. 1 to May 21, 2014, the Niagara County Sheriff's Department logged 3,651 complaints for Lewiston. These numbers will exponentially increase as summer comes our way, when we are busy with festivals, concerts and other seasonal activities.
Lewiston is the happening place to be, especially in the summer when it brings in a variety of interesting people. These activities bring in people to our parks, our restaurants and our businesses that spend money here and enjoy our community. Conversely, it also has the potential to bring in opportunists, criminals, vagrants, terrorists and countless other undesirable people. The officers on the Lewiston Police Department undergo a variety of evolving schooling on subjects, ranging from officer sensitivity to training on terrorism so that we can effectively and efficiently deal with situations this small group of people create.
The men and women of the Lewiston Police Department are members of this community also. We shop at Tops, Rite Aid, Smokin Joes, CVS and we enjoy the ice cream from Hibbard's Custard stand. Working for the Lewiston Police Department is not just a job for us, it's a lifestyle. We have an enormous interest in keeping Lewiston safe, because not only do we have the pleasure of keeping Lewiston residents out of harm's way, we are also keeping our own loved ones and our own neighborhoods protected.
People do live in Lewiston for its beauty and for its safety and the Lewiston Police Department will continue to do its due diligence in serving and protecting this community.