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Schenectady County crime task force launching by summer

Schenectady County crime task force launching by summer

City, county and Rotterdam will be initial participants
Schenectady County crime task force launching by summer
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

SCHENECTADY COUNTY — The Schenectady County intermunicipal street crime task force, the creation of which was announced in September, should be operating by summer, officials said.

The County Legislature is this month approving the intermunicipal legal agreements needed so police officers from the city of Schenectady and other municipalities can work together across municipal lines to tackle crime "hot spots."

"It will be looking at hot spots identified by the communities," said county Legislator Rory Fluman, D-Scotia, who is chairman of the county's Intergovernmental Cooperation Committee, which voted unanimously Monday to approve the agreements. The full County Legislature will vote on them next week.

The task force, which falls under the jurisdiction of Sheriff Dominic Dagostino, was envisioned as including representatives of all the municipal police departments in the county, but in the end, the towns of Niskayuna and Glenville and village of Scotia decided they can't spare officers to serve on the task force. They each will have the option of joining the task force in 2019, county officials said.

While the city is perceived as having the largest crime problem in the county, property crime has been seen elsewhere. Last fall there was a gun store burglary in Glenville, and people living in West Glenville were victims of a series of burglaries on hilly rural roads that had always been prized for their safety. County officials said burglaries are occurring in every town in the county.

"We're a small geographical county where crime can move from community to community and town to town very quickly," Fluman said.

Glenville Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said his Town Board was never approached directly by county officials about participating, though he acknowledged Police Chief Steve Janik was asked and expressed concern about participating because of the department's staffing levels.

"I don't know anything about the task force. I don't know what they do; I don't know what they are. There's been no discussion at the policy level with the policymakers," Koetzle said.

He said Glenville has had problems with traffic enforcement and small crimes at Wal-Mart, but not with drug sales and other things he considers "street level" crimes. The burglaries the town has seen, he said, aren't really "street level" crimes.

Even though the county would compensate the town, Koetzle said being part of the task force would still mean replacing a seasoned officer assigned to the task force with a rookie, and it takes a year of schooling and training before even a rookie officer can hit the streets.

"We really don't have the staff to spare an officer," Koetzle said.

The task force will include two sergeants and four police officers from the city; two deputies, one sergeant and one inspector from the Schenectady County Sheriff's Department; one officer from Rotterdam, a full-time data analyst to be shared between the city and county and a liaison from the U.S. Marshals Service. The assigned officers are already training together.

The municipalities that are lending officers to the task force are being paid $100,000 per officer, so that they can be replaced on their local police forces. The task force, which has rented offices on Erie Boulevard, has a budget this year of $2 million.

The initial agreement to establish the task force will run for three years, but county officials said they expect the task force to stay in operation for 20 years or more.

"I think it will have a tremendous impact on crime in Schenectady County," said County Attorney Christopher Gardner.

Reach Daily Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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