TOWN OF FISHKILL – the town’s police force, made up entirely of part-time officers, has a Community Policing unit manned by a sergeant and a detective and they are seeking to expand the number of officers to help with the efforts.
Sergeant Craig Wood started the unit with Detective Jason Betley a few years ago and the two have spent countless hours doing the often unnoticed aspect of police work; community outreach. The two-man unit is responsible for maintaining records of the businesses in the town with regard to ownership information, alarm system data, for use in the event of an emergency as well as complaint follow-ups, radar maintenance, and enforcing panhandling and illegal dumping occurrences.
Wood claims that one of the most vital roles they play in the community is that of senior citizen education. “We do our best to make sure our senior population is aware of potential scams being perpetrated against seniors and ways to avoid being swindled,” said Wood. Wood and Betley also conduct “active-shooter” training for schools and businesses in Fishkill and both find it rewarding. “We want people to be aware of their surroundings and know how to react in the event of an active-shooter situation,” noted Wood.
Town lawmakers are also cognizant of the need for additional community policing efforts. Speaking of community policing, Town Supervisor Ozzy Albra said “I am 100% for it,” adding “I plan on expanding it in Fishkill.” Albra echoed Wood who said “I would like the people of Fishkill to feel they are able to walk up to a Police Officer and ask him or her a question without having any fear,” with Albra saying “At the local level it’s very important to gain trust with the community.” Board member Ori Brachfeld is also supporting the expansion of the unit, calling community policing “The best method for policing small towns like Fishkill.”
There are instances when the two community policing officers are more visible with their work. On Wednesday, Wood and Betley participated in a “drive-by” at the Fishkill Center for rehabilitation to honor three patients who were being discharged after battling the Coronavirus.
Lieutenant Keith Dworkin, the officer in charge of the department, is working to develop additional programs that will require more officers to be added to the unit. An “Elder-Watch” program that will have officers make contact with enrolled members of the program during critical events and crises such as winter storms, severe weather, and the list now includes pandemics. Another need for community policing manpower will be an “Autism Care Registry” where enrollees will provide contact and special needs information allowing officers to locate missing persons faster and get them home to loved ones if found missing. Also, it assists officers by providing critical personal information during incidents where contact is made by police. Dworkin noted that the programs are still in the development stage and the program names are not permanent.