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Are we experiencing an increase in crime?  The simple answer is no.  Although in recent years we have seen some relatively minor year-to-year fluctuations in crimes and arrests, our overall levels of reported crimes actually declined approximately 10% between 2009 and 2013.  Moreover, in the first 6 months of 2014, we have seen a further decline of more than 14% on an annualized basis.  Within these overall positive trends, we are seeing an increase in crimes of opportunity, such as thefts from unlocked cars and unchained bicycles.  Of course, these are situations that simple, common sense precautionary steps on the part of residents can effectively reduce.  We and our Police Department would ask your help in taking those steps.


What happened recently on Whitehall Boulevard?  On Monday, June 30th, at 9:17 p.m., Garden City Police received a phone call from a teenager who, from his basement, heard unusual noises in his home. Two Garden City Police Officers, who were on patrol, responded immediately, safeguarded the teenager, immediately secured the property and apprehended two suspects.  The apprehended suspects were unarmed and upon investigation it was learned that they entered the residence through an unlocked door under the impression that no one was home.  This was not a home invasion.


What is the Board of Trustees doing to enhance safety and security in the Village?  As noted above, the safety of our residents and visitors is of utmost concern.  With that in mind, the Board of Trustees, Village Administrator and Police Commissioner have been working diligently to continually enhance the capacity, capability and effectiveness of our Police Department and our safety and security systems generally.  Among other things, our current Village budget makes provision for an increase of 4 sworn officers, continuing the long-term trend of increasing our levels of spending on police, even as we aggressively look to constrain spending in other areas.  Moreover, despite our efforts to tightly manage Village finances, there has been no decline in patrols.  In fact, we reduce other functions such as speeding enforcement from time to time to make sure we maintain neighborhood patrols.  Indeed, during storms and other emergencies, we significantly enhance our patrol coverage.  Moreover, we continue to invest in technology to enhance the effectiveness of our officers.  For example, we have equipped our vehicles with new technology that enables officers on patrol to enter and submit reports in the field, rather than leaving patrol to prepare them at headquarters.  We have invested in an automated license plate reader and anticipate receiving grant funding for another.  We are also making greater use of surveillance cameras in select areas around the Village to enhance our monitoring and detection capabilities.  And we are continuing to pursue additional grant funding to further accelerate our acquisition and deployment of the latest technology and even greater crime prevention resources.


What can residents do to help?  As noted above, some of the most effective things are also the simplest.  Lock your doors.  The most recent attempted burglary on Whitehall Blvd. involved entry through an unlocked door.  Lock your car.  Thefts from vehicles account for more than a third of the thefts in our Village and [most] of these are from unlocked vehicles.  Teach your children to lock their bicycles.  Bicycle thefts nearly tripled in 2013.  Be vigilant and contact the Police Department if you see anything suspicious.  Alert and attentive neighbors have often made the difference in helping police prevent and solve crime.


Final thoughts.  The Board of Trustees, Village Administrator, Police Commissioner and the dedicated members of our Police Department are committed to the safety and security of our residents and visitors.  While we will never be able to eliminate all crime in our Village, we continuously monitor and address trends and invest in both manpower and technology to enhance safety and security.  Residents have a role to play in helping to reduce opportunities for criminal activity and by reporting suspicious activity.


If you would like to learn more about crime and arrest trends in the Village, some of the steps our Police Department is taking and more on what you can do to help, we invite you to attend the July 17 Village Board of Trustees meeting at 8 p.m. during which Police Commissioner Ken Jackson will make a presentation.