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Police say local watch has worked


VALATIE  — The state police, including Senior Investigator Gary Mazzacano, and Columbia County District Attorney Beth Cozzolino attended the Valatie Village Neighborhood Watch meeting last week. The law enforcement officials were there to talk about a break-in at a home on Church Street and the overall effectiveness of the local watch program.

Officers told the audience at the June 30 gathering that they had good leads on the burglary, which happened late at night while the homeowners were asleep. Trooper Michael Castle, who responded to the call in late May, told the Neighborhood Watch group that police have no reason to believe the criminals thought anyone was at home.

Investigator Bill Mulrein told the dozen village residents in the Neighborhood Watch, “We don’t get a whole lot of home invasions.” He said the thieves broke in through a garage window and were in the house for half an hour before the homeowner heard them and called 911.

Investigator Mulrein and Trooper Castle stressed using sensor lights on residences can be a deterrent, as well as locking windows and doors at night, and firmly attaching air conditioners to window frames with screws. “If someone has to put effort in, they would turn and run,” said the trooper of would-be thieves.

Trooper Castle also said that people should call the barracks in Kinderhook if they see anything suspicious. The number is 518 758-7010. If there is no one at the barracks to answer the call it will be transferred to Poughkeepsie and officers in this area will be alerted.

DA Cozzolino praised Valatie for having a Neighborhood Watch. “Just from the statistics in our office burglaries are down,” she said of incidents in the village. She did say crime is up in the rest of the county. “Compared to the rest of the county, you’re in good shape,” she said.

The Neighborhood Watch group has been meeting since last summer, when over 100 people gathered at Barnwell to talk about robberies at several stores on Main Street. Village officials, along with Deputy Sheriff Wendy Guntert, started meeting monthly to discuss crime in the village.

There is now a Sheriff’s Office substation at the American Legion Hall, and cameras monitor Main Street. The district attorney, a candidate for county judge in the fall election, said the criminal responsible for the Main Street crimes would be sentenced in August.

Valatie Mayor Gary Strevell said that he invited the state troopers to the Neighborhood Watch meeting to talk about the Church Street break-in. Ms. Cozzolino and Sr. Inv. Mazzacano came to the meeting to praise the watch and ask how things were progressing with the group.

The group also talked about the local parks in village being used by kids late at night. Deputy Guntert they cannot arrest anyone under 15 for trespassing “If they commit criminal mischief they can get a ticket,” she said.

But Trooper Castle said he broke up a bonfire at River Street Park two weeks ago. He said police can clear out the parks if village law says that the parks are closed at dark. “The kids aren’t the only problem,” Sr. Inv. Mazzacano said. “It’s the adults with bad habits.”

The State Police representatives did touch on the issue of the park in Niverville behind the town hall that sparked critical comments are a recent Town Board meeting. Residents around the park said they saw drug deals taking place there. “If they are of age and they are in the park, they get arrested,” Trooper Castle told the group. “That’s what we did in Niverville and it quieted right down.”

Deputy Guntert has been meeting with school Superintendent Lee Bordick to discuss these and other issues.

The next Neighborhood Watch Meeting will be Thursday, July 21.


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