Patrolling The Streets
GLOVERSVILLE – Fulton County law enforcement officials feel they can always use more manpower, but nevertheless have an adequate number of officers to patrol the area.
They say they also understand the hiring of more officers to combat local crime is subject to municipal budget constraints.
“They do a great job considering the size of the departments,” said Fulton County District Attorney Louise Sira.
Gloversville police Chief Donald VanDeusen, a 23-year veteran, remembers when his police force had more members to do the job.
“I would love to have the police department as it was, back to the staff of the ’90s,” he says. “But I’m also aware of the financial aspects of it.”
VanDeusen said the Gloversville Police Department currently has 31 officers, which includes three new recruits in the Zone 5 Law Enforcement Academy until July.
The way a typical daily patrol shift works with the Gloversville Police Department, VanDeusen said, is four platoons. Each platoon has five officers out on patrol, with one supervisor. He said a more high-profile, potentially very dangerous situation necessitates more coverage in his city of 15,388.
“If something happens, it’s all hands on deck,” the chief stated.
VanDeusen said his department had about 42 members at one point in the 1990s, even though there were much fewer calls.
“We have a quarter less of a department now, with approximately a 30 percent increase in volume,” the chief said.
The numbers of calls keep growing for the department. Gloversville police had 13,886 calls for service in 2012, compared to 15,911 for 2013.
But VanDeusen said the Gloversville Common Council and the administration of the city have “always been helpful” from a staffing standpoint, as long he has been connected with the department.
Population wise, these four New York state cities compare to Gloversville: Batavia, Genesee County, 15,444; Beacon, Dutchess County, 15,565; Rye, Westchester County, 15,834; and Tonawanda, Erie County, 15,112.
The average number of officers for the departments was 30, just one below Gloversville’s current 31 officers. The state Division of Criminal Justice Services website reports these numbers of officers for 2012 in the cities comparable to Gloversville: Batavia – 28; Beacon – 31; Rye – 34; and Tonawanda – 28.
Gloversville Mayor Dayton King says he could use a bigger police force.
“I think if I could hire 10 officers, I’d take them,” he said.
But King also said that the numbers in city personnel can be “out of whack” sometimes, adding that “the firefighters have too many people.”
The city of Johnstown has a population of 8,559, or more than 6,800 fewer people than Gloversville. According to Lt. David Gilbo, the department totals 24 officers, including himself and Chief Mark Gifford.
That 24 officers for Johnstown is above the 22 assigned to the Hornell Police Department in Steuben County, which serves a similarly-sized city of 8,566. But Johnstown’s 24 officers are six less than the 30 officers patrolling Port Jervis in Orange County, whose population of 8,878 is about 300 people more than in Johnstown.
Gilbo said there are five Johnstown officers per shift. The city runs two 12-hour shifts per day, with two officers doing investigations.
He said that during his 20 years as a Johnstown officer, the total number of officers serving the Colonial City has decreased.
“They’ve gone down,” the lieutenant said. “We were as high as 28 at one point.”
Gilbo said there has been city budget decisions that have decreased the police force in Johnstown, and the department knows the situation can be “budget-controlled.”
“At the current time, we’re comfortable at 24,” he said. “We’d like to see another [position] added back.”
Gilbo said that past 9 p.m., the police shifts tend to get busier. He said there is also an increase in traffic when the businesses at the Johnstown Industrial Park get busier.
Fulton County Public Defender Gerard McAuliffe, who represents indigent persons accused of crimes, told county supervisors last week he needs more staff to keep up with more cases in Johnstown. He is applying for a $110,000 state grant for three years for a part-time sixth assistant public defender for Johnstown City Court.
He said he has 26 cases, 14 of which are felonies, pending in that court.
“Johnstown is evolving in regard to certain issues,” McAuliffe said. “We’ve been much more busy in Johnstown the last few years than anytime.”
“I’m hoping down the road we can get more police coverage for the individuals in the city,” new Johnstown Mayor Michael Julius said. He said he will be taking a look at all aspects of public safety, including fire protection.
As far as the rest of Fulton County – other than state police – the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department is on patrol in the county’s 10 towns. The county has a population of 55,531.
“We actually have 17 assigned to patrol,” said Sheriff Thomas Lorey, now in his 19th year working for the department.
According to the DCJS website, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department had 33 total officers in 2012, which includes administrative and part-time.
New York state counties similar in population to Fulton include: Chenango County, 50,477 (27 officers); Cortland County, 49,336 (41 officers); Franklin County, 51,599 (53 officers); and Tioga County, 51,125 (34 officers).
In his 19 years, Lorey stated the staffing has dropped.
“It’s gone down significantly,” he said.
But he also noted one reason might be his department used to provide many court officers in the county prior to the state taking over court security several years ago.
“I would certainly be happier if there were a few more patrols on the road,” Lorey said.
Still, he said he too understands budget constraints. He said he has a fleet of patrol cars available, and the sheriff’s office tries to have three cars per shift covering the 10 towns. Deputies work two 12-hour shifts around the clock.
He said state police has been very helpful over the years and Fulton County is “very fortunate” to have a Mayfield state police station.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.