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AUGUST 05 - AUGUST 13, 2014

Lewiston Police Go Begging as Local Petitions to Remove Them Completely

By Mike Hudson

August 05, 2014

LPD Chief Chris Salada
Businessman Ron craft

Even the most casual visitor to the picturesque village of Lewiston notices it. You can't help it. Between the Border Patrol, State Parks Police, Niagara County Sheriff's Department, the New York State Police and the Lewiston Police Department, there are more gun-toting, uniformed officers on the streets of the bucolic town than just about anywhere else in Western New York.

Ron Craft, who moved to Lewiston in 2005, noticed it right away. And he's currently circulating a petition that will cut the police presence and save taxpayers some $1.2 million annually by eliminating the local police department.

It's not as crazy as it sounds. Most municipalities in Niagara County get by without a police department, depending on the state police and sheriff's department to keep them safe at night. Craft has collected more than 400 signatures and needs but 275 to get his referendum on the ballot.

"I told (Lewiston Police) Chief (Chris) Salada, 'It's nothing personal, it's a dollars and sense issue. I love this town, but we have to consolidate. That's the future. "

Town Supervisor Dennis Brochey said he would prefer to keep the Lewiston Police Department but acknowledges that the decision is up to voters should a referendum be held.

"If it is legal to have a referendum, then the people should have it," he said.

Currently, the Lewiston department consists of 10 full-time and nine part- time officers and operates on a budget of $1.2 million. Crime in Lewiston is rare, but whether that is due to the overwhelming police presence is debatable.

Salada claims his men will answer more than 10,000 calls this year. He noted that the department has responded to 5,880 calls thus far this year, and made 304 arrests, including 51 DWIs.

He questions Craft's motivation.

"I don't know why he is doing it; obviously he has an agenda," said Salada. "I'm not sure what that it is."

In a prepared statement, the chief maintained the department is a significant part of the community.

"I feel it's important for our community to understand that the Lewiston Police Department is about more than money," he wrote. "We are a group of men and women that work and live in Lewiston and our dedicated to this community. You will see us shopping in Tops or sitting on Center St. watching a parade. We are your neighbors, friends and family and a familiar face at your door, if you ever need to call us."

Back in 2011, former town Supervisor Steve Reiter proposed disbanding the Lewiston Police Department, a position that angered many at the time. But with current Supervisor Brochey predicting a $500,000 budgetary shortfall in the coming year and the prospect of first-time town tax looming, many seem to have reconsidered.

Brochey favors keeping the police department, ending the town's $100,000 annual subsidy to Artpark, and charging that institution the full $85,000 a year he says it costs to provide police protection at its twice weekly festivals during the summer months.

Change of message: Portable sign often employed on Center St.. at the entrance of the village. The sign used to say speed limit 30 mph. Now it says "Welcome to Lewiston Proudly served by LPD".

"We are still trying to stop a town tax of course. And by eliminating the police, there may be a saving. But I think we should keep a police force for the steady protection for the people," he said.

Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour, whose department would bear the brunt of additional work caused by the dissolution of the Lewiston Police Department, is understandably supportive of Salada and his crew. He and 239 others voiced their support on Salada's Facebook page following a July 31 post about the situation.

Entitled "Important Message from Chief Chris Salada," the rambling message details the department's exploits, the 38 arrests a month and the fact that most of the officers live in Lewiston.

Like so many details in this situation, how "important" such information is remains debatable.

Craft will get his referendum on the ballot this November. Salada will use the power of his office to defend against it. Brochey will continue on his tack.

There's an electronic sign you see when you come into Lewiston. It's owned by the police department and usually flashes how fast you're going. They changed it last week and now it says "Welcome to Lewiston," alternating with "proudly Served by the LPD."

It's kind of funny when you think about it. Funny in a sad sort of way.

Like beggars on the street.





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