By Sheriff Mike Schiff
If you have read the headlines in the papers lately, the news is not good at all about crime in Sullivan County.
Recent crime statistics tell the story. Violent crime is up-and one the most serious problems at this point is residential burglaries, which have doubled in number since last year.
They were a bad problem to begin with, but now are much worse. In 2011, burglaries increased by 26%, from 434 to 549 reported to local law enforcement agencies.
Right now, one house a day in Sullivan County is burglarized.
And it’s not just in any particularly area of Sullivan County, every town, village, and hamlet is being targeted.
Much of this crime is driven by desperation. For years, our economy has been stagnant. Combine that with rampant drug use, both illegal use and abuse of prescription drugs, and this combination results in an escalation in crime, particularly burglaries.
How does local law enforcement bring this crime wave under control?
Here’s the answer: Fighting crime effectively is a matter of deterrence. The more boots on the ground, the less crime occurs.
Sullivan Country District Attorney Jim Farrell recently said it best: “Police are a deterrent but when they are not around that deterrent disappears.”
Fighting crime requires commitment, particularly critical funding, and the more you cut law enforcement, the more crime goes up. The County Legislature now needs to make a new, major commitment to the Sullivan County citizens to fight crime.
I recently appeared before the Sullivan County Legislature to request that overtime funding eliminated in budget cuts to the Sheriff’s Office be restored. That money would be used to not only to address the burglary problem, but to help us remain vigilant against terrorist threats to our county.
I commend the County Legislature for restoring about half the funding for overtime and authorizing 5 temporary summer positions.
That’s a good start, but it’s not enough.
They have agreed to open up the line of communications in regard to our need for more full time manpower and overtime.
This commitment is needed: The Road Patrol is down approximately 25% and its only approximately 2.5% of the total fiscal county budget.
As the recent events like the Boston Marathon bombings and the Newtown and Aurora massacres showed us, we must remain vigilant and prepared against terrorism and horrific criminal events. There too, it’s a matter of commitment having the tools and manpower to deter and deal with crime.
It’s time that we worked together to fight this burglary epidemic, to make our neighborhoods safer, and to improve our quality of life here by reducing crime and being prepared for the worst, whether a natural or man-made incident .
One burglary a day in Sullivan County is totally unacceptable.
Sheriff Mike Schiff