FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 6, 2013
Contact: Tom Staudter | ThomasS@westchesterlegislators.com | 914-995-2819 (office) | 914-815-4462 (cell)
BOL Vice Chairman Williams:
Safety of Mount Vernon and County Residents Should Not be Mixed with Politicking
Mount Vernon, NY – Vice Chair Lyndon Williams (D-Mount Vernon) of the Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) expressed concern today that the work of Mount Vernon and County law enforcement professionals has become an election year “political dog and pony show” orchestrated by County Executive Rob Astorino.
“We have serious issues of gun violence here in Mount Vernon, where several young men recently have been killed or seriously injured,” said Williams, “I just don’t believe these tragedies should be used as political schemes designed to increase popularity and political support.”
County Executive Astorino called for a press conference in Mount Vernon today to announce an effort by the Mount Vernon Police Department and the Westchester County Department of Public Safety (DPS) to increase the number of patrols through the city this summer. The arrangement between the Mount Vernon Police Department and DPS is a longstanding program that had been proven to be quite effective under County Executive Spano. It was later discontinued by Astorino.
“Law enforcement professionals ran the program effectively for years,” noted Williams, who added that he strongly supports the efforts of the Mount Vernon and Westchester Law enforcement professionals. “But in the four years that County Executive Astorino has been in office, he has done nothing to publicly support or enhance the program. Now, in an election year, he calls a press conference to announce a program that existed even before he took office—that’s what I call politicking. It’s just outrageous.”
It was reported today that the two police agencies have been working together since Memorial Day and are “off to a great start” with 51 arrests.
“We know this collaborative and coordinated program between the two police departments will certainly help fight crime and deter unlawful activity,” said Williams, who pointed out that the program could be more effective if the Westchester County and Mount Vernon could obtain Federal participation.
Williams stressed that, even with the success of the new arrangement between the two police departments, County Executive Astorino should also be focusing more on crime prevention. Instead Astorino’s eliminated one hundred percent of the funding for several programs for at-risk youth and gang prevention from the 2013 Adopted County Budget.
“Programs like the Mount Vernon Boys & Girls Club, Step-Up, Youth Empowerment, and those run by the Mount Vernon Youth Bureau, or the summer jobs program run by the Mount Vernon Recreation Department and Mount Vernon Boy’s Basketball Coach Bob Cimmino are valuable tools to keep kids away from crime,” said Williams.
In addition, Mr. Astorino blocked funding approved by the BOL for renovations of the Fourth Street Park, in which a midnight basketball program (already successfully utilized in other cities around the country) would keep many at-risk youth out of gangs during the summer.
Significantly, the Fourth Street renovations would have paid for cameras in the park. A few months after Astorino blocked the funding for the park, a young man, just graduated from college, was shot and killed while sitting on the broken down bleachers.
“Cameras and lights installed in Fourth Street Park as planned,” stated Williams, “might have deterred the shooter or at least identified who committed this terrible crime.”
“But a political dog and pony show won’t solve problems facing at-risk youths,” Williams continued. “What is necessary right now is reducing the high youth unemployment rates in urban communities and providing positive programs and activities that keep youths off the streets. These are precisely the programs that the Astorino Administration has eliminated, thereby placing Mount Vernon youths at greater risk of harm. These are human lives we’re talking about, not statistics. Our youth need opportunities to make their summers more enriching and rewarding.”
“Putting more police officers out on patrol to make more arrests is not the only way of handling problems with at-risk youths,” concluded Williams. “Prevention is a major part of solving the crime problem. When it comes to protecting our youth, we should do everything within our power to ensure their safety and provide for their futures.”
The programs offered by the Boys & Girls Club, the Mount Vernon Youth Bureau and the Mount Vernon Recreation Department that were eliminated by County Executive Astorino provided young people with academic enrichment; counseling; social, recreational and violence prevention activities; employment readiness training; and job placement.
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