By GIB SNYDER
OBSERVER City Editor
The decision to allow the city of Dunkirk Police Department to provide patrol services for the town of Dunkirk seems to be working out.
That was the word from Police Chief David Ortolano during a recent Common Council Public Safety Committee meeting. Council recently approved an extension of the contract with the town to provide the coverage through 2014. Ortolano said Town Supervisor Richard Purol and town council members he spoke with were "very happy" with the patrol service, which includes residential neighborhoods and business districts, including Vineyard Drive.
"As we're patrolling them people are stopping our guys and thanking them for being around the neighborhood and their presence in the patrol car. We've had several instances when our guys were doing the business check they found open doors, vehicles," Ortolano added. "They've made a couple arrests, along with the State Police and the Sheriff's Department, on issues that are happening in the town where our guys are finding it and coordinating with the State Police and sheriffs and making arrests on it. I think it's working very well and I would hope that as time goes on in the future we can continue to explore and expand."
The chief explained the department's role as providing the presence of a patrol.
"It's doing security checks, patrolling their neighborhoods, checking their businesses at all hours of the day and night. Right now, enforcement issues are still primarily with the State Police and sheriffs, we don't handle primary enforcement. We do respond in the town on calls many times at the request of the sheriff's department and the request of the State Police," Ortolano stated.
"We receive many calls at our dispatch from people in the town calling in complaints. We will immediately notify the sheriff's dispatch of the issue and then we'll also send one of our cars out to that call, but we do notify the sheriffs and State Police that we're responding."
Second Ward Councilman William J. Rivera is on the Public Safety Committee and said he would leave it to the chief's judgment when to take the next step.
"I think the future, we talk about regionalization and things of that sort, it's something we need to explore, no questions asked," Ortolano replied. "I think it's something we should look at for the future, ... working for a regional police force, I think, that's the way to go for the future."
He added the current contract is "kind of a ... let's see how it works. What we can do for them and what kind of services and look at what the future is. Maybe a regionalized police force in the north county area, but that's a long ways away."
Fourth Ward Councilwoman Stacy Szukala chairs the committee and expressed concern about bicyclists riding on the wrong side of the road. According to New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law, bicycles have to follow the same road rules as motor vehicles.
Ortolano said he, along with DPD officers, have written tickets for people on bikes involved in accidents if they are in violation of the vehicle and traffic laws. He added the majority of violators are children.
"Unfortunately there's not a lot we can do. We can scold them and tell them to ride on the right side of the road and obey the rules," he stated. "It comes down to an educational issue really, teaching kids when they're young the proper rules and ways to ride a bike. That's got to come from the parents teaching them that. Unfortunately, when they grow up they ride wherever they want to ride. You hate to see a tragedy happen because they just don't follow the rules and regulations."
The use of the skate park by bicyclists was another problem and it was noted the removal of a fence that enclosed the park and a missing signage are part of the problem. People taking shopping carts and leaving them around the city was another issue.
"They're being abandoned on Lincoln, Wright, Ruggles. ... Have we given any tickets at all?" Szukala asked.
Ortolano said tickets have been issued but can only be done with P&G and Save-A-Lot carts as those stores have agreed to the prosecution of people who take carts off store property. Ortolano added if people see someone with a shopping cart to call the department at 366-2266 and they'll make an arrest.
After the meeting Szukala was asked what was accomplished.
"I think we got some updates that we were needing as far as reasons for overtime within the fire department, which has been a concern for a while. Until you find out why the overtime is happening there's really not much you can do other than complain," she replied. "It doesn't make the overtime any better, but we understand why it is happening. ... We have to have five guys on a shift at all times and that's the reason. I'm happy with knowing it's not something that's being overused. In this particular case there's reasons why guys are out."