Saratoga County

Hearing set on Saratoga Springs rifle ordinance

Few civilians walk around downtown Saratoga Springs carrying rifles in plain sight, but because of c

Few civilians walk around downtown Saratoga Springs carrying rifles in plain sight, but because of complaints after a January gun show, the City Council tonight will consider requiring guns to be hidden inside cases.

The ordinance the City Council will consider at tonight’s meeting would require people in the downtown district to store all firearms in opaque containers — gun cases or some other type of wrap.

Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen said Monday he got a few complaints from residents who saw people carrying rifles down Broadway after apparently purchasing them at the New Eastcoast Arms Collectors Associates Inc. show at the City Center in January.

“There were a number of people who felt uncomfortable,” Mathiesen said, including protesters outside gun show and residents who were out walking with their families. “Our downtown area is a gathering place for everybody.”

A public hearing on the issue is scheduled for 6:50 p.m. in the City Council chambers in City Hall. The ordinance will be considered for adoption later in the meeting.

The downtown district includes most of Broadway and a block or two of the adjacent side streets.

The ordinance contains exceptions for police officers, who often can be spotted at shift change carrying their rifles in or out of the police station; members of the military; and people who are taking part in a parade or ceremony. That includes historic re-enactment encampments in Congress Park, Mathiesen said.

Anyone else would be given a warning with the first offense and an appearance ticket with a subsequent offense.

Also tonight, the council is expected to consider hiring two more police officers by using additional gambling revenue from the state. Officials want to beef up the patrol division amid reports of assaults in recent months. Downtown businesses also have reported more panhandling, shoplifting and people hanging out in the parking garages recently, said Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan.

Recent violent crimes include a reported rape about a week ago in the Saratogian newspaper’s parking lot. And jury selection started Monday in a 2-year-old case going to trial this week in Saratoga County Court; it involves a 67-year-old woman who allegedly was dragged from her parked car on South Franklin Street, robbed and sexually assaulted.

“It does send a message that we are looking at this, we are taking care of this,” Madigan said of hiring more officers.

Mathiesen will host a public forum for people to weigh in on public safety issues from 7 to 9 p.m. June 20 in the City Council chambers in City Hall.

People won’t notice an immediate increase of officers on the street, because background checks, police academy training and on-the-job training can last up to 18 months.

The city would spend $59,000 more than its original budget for the rest of this year and $160,000 next year for the two officers, Madigan said. Job vacancies in the Public Safety Department have freed up funds in this year’s budget.

She plans to propose that the money come from a $331,000 revenue boost the city expects from the state for hosting Saratoga Casino and Raceway’s video lottery terminals.

If the officers are approved, the city would fund the Police Department at 69 officers, three fewer than the 72 it had before layoffs.

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