BY MICHAEL RICONDA
New City – The Town of Clarkstown is known for being safe and crime has continued to ebb in recent years, but a small criminal culture does continue to persist in the town’s underbelly, Clarkstown Chief of Police Michael Sullivan told the New City Rotary Club this week.
According to Sullivan, the most recent statistics from the UCR Uniform Crime Reports reveal crime has been down across the board. This is particularly true for violent crime, which has seen a significant decrease. “We had a brief spike in 2011, but 2012 [was] the lowest [the numbers] have been and 2013 is following that suit,” Sullivan said.
However, white-collar and property crimes have not been as easy to manage, particularly given the prevalence of identity theft and petty offenses at the Palisades Center. Violent crimes and sex offenses also occur in the mall, but at a much lower frequency than petty offenses. The mall seems to recognize the problem and has provided significant assistance to Clarkstown, allowing a police presence, contributing $115,000 for Clarkstown’s services and permitting access to security cameras. Of the 163 man department, two are dedicated officers at the mall. Though the Shops at Nanuet has not seen significant criminal activity since its opening in October, it has also contributed $25,000 for police services and has its own dedicated police officer servicing the shopping center.
Drugs are another area of concern for Clarkstown police, especially the growth of prescription pill and heroin abuse. In response to enterprises which often span far beyond Rockland County, Clarkstown often works in tandem with other agencies to manage the drug trade.
“Our street crimes units work these crimes on a local level and we work with our task force and they handle the bigger and more advanced crimes and when it gets that big we all work together with the federal agencies,” Sullivan explained. “Most of the time they go across international borders.”
A frequent area of attention in matters related to both drug abuse and emergency situations are schools. Though police do not have enough officers on hand for a permanent presence, they will occasionally conduct sweeps of high schools with drug dogs and conduct brief patrols to establish a presence and build a rapport with faculty and students.
Since 2000, Clarkstown Police have also worked with both schools and shopping centers to conduct drills and prepare plans in the event of a mass shooting. According to Sullivan, police frequently work with not only school administration and faculty but also guidance counselors to identify and prevent acts of violence before they occur.
“We’re putting a lot of emphasis on prevention and getting the information we need without violating the privacy of the student, but getting the information we need so that if a student is in crisis for whatever reason we can intervene before something really bad happens,” Sullivan explained. “To me that’s just as important, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Another priority is the Super Bowl, when it is expected that instances of human trafficking, prostitution, counterfeiting and fraud will be prevalent. In response to human trafficking, Sullivan stated there would be an emphasis on “rescue and recovery” where police, hotels and taxi services will be trained to identify potential cases and address the needs of those rescued from such situations.