The Schoharie County Sheriff’s Department is boosting patrols in the village to deter the continued theft of construction equipment and burglaries at flooded homes being rebuilt by residents.
The county’s Board of Supervisors on Friday directed $10,000 toward overtime costs to get more deputies on the streets at a time when law enforcement officials say there’s a spike in drug use and other crime that extends beyond the flood-ravaged village of Schoharie.
Sheriff Tony Desmond said he expected extra deputy patrols to begin as early as Friday evening.
Friday’s decision followed a lengthy discussion about a recent spate of burglaries.
Construction work that’s begun at the county office complex is also causing complications as officials try to figure out how to arrange for contractors to get into the building before regular business hours.
The project could put sensitive court material, construction tools and supplies at risk, said Supervisor Gene Milone, D-Schoharie.
“They know that we’re vulnerable,” Milone said of thieves that have been plundering flooded homes and the storage areas for Schoharie Area Long Term, the organization coordinating post-flood rebuilding in the Schoharie Valley.
Desmond said one property owner is offering a reward for the return of items stolen from his flood rebuilding project.
“We will do what we can to help this village,” he said.
The discussion during Friday’s Board of Supervisors meeting turned to crime elsewhere in the county, which officials said is stretching law enforcement thin.
Supervisor James Buzon, D-Middleburgh, said his town is seeing an increase in crime and “rampant drug use.”
He said the local trash collection company reported finding an increase in hypodermic needles during pickup, and Buzon described ongoing lawlessness and a “rash of break-ins.”
Buzon said he’s concerned the theft of flood rebuilding equipment and donations could impact the recovery effort because people donating are seeing their help stolen.
“If this continues, SALT is going to start losing some of the donations,” he said.
SALT Director Sarah Goodrich later Friday said media exposure on thefts the organization has endured hasn’t dampened the spirits of donors.
“Actually, we’ve seen some of the opposite happening,” she said. “People were upset when they heard about this and called with the desire to help to replace things that were stolen,”
She said SALT has been burglarized twice, once a week ago and once in the spring.
“In a year’s time, to have even a couple thousand [dollars’] worth of items taken is really small compared to the huge amount of things that have come in in terms of donations and the huge amount of volunteers,” Goodrich said.
Supervisor Earl Van Wormer, R-Esperance, described increased crime in his town as well. He pointed to recent drug discoveries and arrests, people shooting out windows and burglaries.
“It’s more than just one village or one town,” he said.
Desmond said it’s his understanding officials in the village have asked state police to consider additional activity in the valley. But he said other municipalities are already calling for more state police assistance, such as Schenectady.
“Everybody wants help … there’s just so many police officers,” he said.
Even if more road patrol deputies are hired, it would take months of training to get them out in the field, Desmond said.