Community plans crime fight

VALATIE – A Neighborhood Watch meeting held on January 20 at Barnwell Nursing and Rehabilitation Center drew around a dozen people, including Mayor Gary Strevell, Trustee Jennifer Furey, Village Clerk Donna Schneider and Columbia County Deputy Sheriff Wendy Guntert. The group has been meeting since June to talk about safety issues in the village and ways to address them. Deputy Guntert brought the crime statistics reports for December and January from the Sheriff’s Office and Mayor Strevell brought pizza.

The impetus for a Neighborhood Watch was a series of robberies that occurred in the village last spring, and a meeting was held on June 29, also at Barnwell, with several representatives from local law enforcement agencies and a large group citizens attending. The smaller group that met last week grew out of the June meeting. “Frankly, a lot of people felt nervous,” said Mayor Strevell.

At last week’s meeting, Deputy Guntert, said that the crime rate was low for last month. “Everything… was very, very minor stuff,” she said. She said that was good, since sometimes they see a rise in crime during the holidays. But she warned the group not to become complacent, saying, “I think we really have to stay on top of it.” She said they have to be prepared to for crime that comes with the warmer weather.

She told the group that there was a check on local liquor stores and bars last month to see whether they were selling to minors. Kinderhook Beverage and the bar on Main Street where both found at fault and people were charged.

Villagers worried about people drinking on the sidewalk in front of the bar on Main Street once the weather gets warmer. Deputy Guntert said that the authorities will watch for that.

Many people in the group commented that it helps that the village now has a Sheriff’s Office substation on Main Street in the American Legion Hall. A deputy is assigned to the substation and police vehicles park out front. There are also new surveillance cameras on Main Street, which officers are monitoring. “Sheriffs go in and out of that,” Trustee Furey said of the new substation. She owns a business on Main Street next door to the substation. “It helps a lot,” she said.

Though the monthly meetings are open to the public and posted on the village website, the group decided to host a larger information meeting Thursday, March 10 at 7pm at Barnwell to tell residents about the progress they have made and what the plan to do in the future.

Deputy Guntert reminded citizens to lock their doors and lock their car doors in their driveways. Again she stressed that good weather may mean more crime and the group needs to be vigilant.

Other issues brought up by the group involved crosswalks in the village and speeding on Main Street. Ms. Guntert said deputies could have patrols monitor the crosswalks in the future to make sure cars are yielding to pedestrians.  She also said the villagers who see dangerous intersections due to snow should call the authorities. “Call 911 if it’s a bad situation,” she said.

The group will meet again February 17 to set the agenda for the March 10 general meeting. Information will be posted on the village website and at the village hall.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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