In a recent poll on the Niagara Frontier Publications website, 95 percent of Lewiston residents ages 18 and older voted in favor of retaining the Lewiston Police Department.
The survey sought to determine how residents would vote should this question be raised on a referendum. Earlier this summer, Village of Lewiston resident Ron Craft, a former trustee and current Center Street business owner, started a petition to bring the issue to a vote, saying removal of the LPD would save taxpayers more than $1 million. He claimed to have 500 signatures of support, and advocated for using the Niagara County Sheriff's Office in lieu of the LPD.
The LPD and elected leaders have disputed that $1 million figure. They've said any savings would be minimal, and result in fewer patrols. The LPD currently has 10 full-time and nine part-time officers. It's unknown how many would be kept if the NCSO took over patrol duties.
Niagara Frontier Publications has heard from residents who said they signed Craft's petition because they were "misinformed."
Residents voting to keep the LPD said:
•"We need them! They (are) vital to our community!"
•"These guys know Lewiston best and they are always right there when needed. It's also nice having their presence close to the school district! Yes. As a parent it makes it nice to know they are right there if ever needed! Also a good deterrent for criminals."
•"Awesome job out there! We can all rest a little more comfortably knowing you're protecting us and our loved ones!"
•"Yes! They make this community safe. Especially with all the festivals and concerts, we need them!"
•"Yes, I have lived in Lewiston all (of) my life and there is a reason I choose to stay here. Lewiston is an inherently safe place to live, and the reason for that is the Lewiston Police Department and its dedicated staff of officers that keep this area safe."
•"Absolutely! We would be insane to even consider giving them up!"
•"I feel safe in my community and at my house. Having (policemen) be our neighbors and a part of our community is priceless."
•"Yes, keep the (LPD), but make it compulsory for the events and festivals to pay for the police service."
Of the 12 votes to eliminate the LPD, four came from Craft's family.
Other residents who voted to eliminate the LPD said:
•"We don't need these village mafia cops sucking up our tax dollars."
•"They are bullies, and to be quite honest, I can speak from experience that they do not do what they are supposed to."
•"They are honestly a waste of money."
•"NCSO will do a better and cheaper job."
Though the Town of Lewiston disqualified Craft's petition, saying a resident could not bring forth such a request, he has vowed to fight the legality of the council's ruling.
In a 10-day period, 240 votes were cast at www.wnypapers.com - a bit more than 34 percent of the number of voters who participated in last week's primary election.
Visit our website to read a Q&A with Craft, where he explains the benefits of consolidation; and a Q&A with Salada, who lists the benefits of a full-time police force.
Reporter Joshua Maloni contributed to this article.