Advisory committee reviewing crime in Amsterdam
AMSTERDAM City officials have organized a new committee of community volunteers to make recommendations about solving the city’s crime problems.
In a rare news conference Wednesday, Mayor Ann Thane said the committee is forming because of recent “high-profile” crime incidents, though adding that the city remains “one of the safest communities in the region.”
Among other recent incidents, there was a near-riot in the East End, robberies in the 4th Ward, and an uptick in the perennial graffiti problem.
Members of the committee include city Democratic Chairman Jeffrey Stark, former Corporation Counsel Robert Going, Assistant District Attorney Sarah Lesycynski, Detective Sgt. Owen L. Fuhs and Johnny Abreu, a private citizen. Alderman Joseph Isabel, R-1st Ward and chair of the council’s Public Safety Committee, is the city’s liaison to the as-yet unnamed crime committee.
The committee will be working with business owners and community groups to find solutions to the city’s problems with crime, Thane said.
Stark submitted a 21-page research paper to the city Wednesday that includes five potential initiatives that could help reduce crime and improve the quality of life in the city: instituting a curfew for juveniles, banning the sale and possession of items used to vandalize property such as spray paint and certain types of markers, instituting a 311 calling system for non-emergency calls, hiring more police officers and the use of zoning laws to create areas of the city where business owners would be mandated to secure their buildings with either security cameras or guards.
Some of the initiatives are controversial, including the curfew, which in some cities has been deemed unconstitutional; some of the initiatives would require county cooperation; and some would cost money, such as the 311 system, which could run $200,000, according to the report.
Police Chief Thomas Brownell said some of the proposals may be hard to implement, but added that he always welcomes ideas from community members and encourages the community to become more involved with the city’s police work.
Community policing has already been successful in the city. Members of the Neighborhood Watch Program have helped police catch youths committing vandalism on numerous occasions. A Neighborhood Watch member helped police catch a juvenile last week who was a member of a group of teenagers who called themselves the Pack of Vandals.
“We always welcome ideas and suggestions,” Brownell said. “Something major may come out of this, who knows.”