About a dozen community members gathered in St. Agnes School Thursday night for the fourth Synergy Greenport meeting, where school security and police engagement with youths were the biggest topics.
The meeting was hosted by the Southold Anti-Bias Task Force with members Sonia Spar, Chris North and Loretta Hatzel-Geraci participating along with Councilman Bill Ruland. The discussion was led by James Banks, chairman of the Southampton Town Anti-Bias Task Force and coordinator of multicultural affairs at Suffolk County Community College. Residents were able to have an open dialogue and ask questions of Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley.
“Every meeting I go to, every forum, is about school safety,” Chief Flatley said.
When asked about school safety in light of recent tragedies, Chief Flatley announced that the department just spent about $5,000 to $6,000 on software to monitor the town’s school cameras.
Officers will not be constantly monitoring the screens, but will be able to look in when requested or needed.
As of now, Mattituck School District is the only school with the new camera system in place. In about a week, the camera system will be linked to the police department. Officers will have the ability to log on from the police station and view what is happening in the school, if requested.
“The policy will be something like, when the school reports an incident happening, then we’ll have permission for supervisors to go into the camera system,” Chief Flatley said. “There’s no random looking at cameras. There is going to be a valid reason to be logging onto the camera system.”
Chief Flatley said Mattituck will be up and running in the next few weeks, with Southold, Greenport and Oysterponds making efforts to purchase camera equipment that is suitable with the police software in the next few years, depending on the budgeting.
Mattituck schools already had extensive camera equipment, but officials downloaded aoftware that allows the school to be connected to police.
“Once a school makes a call to law enforcement, law enforcement is now in charge,” Mattituck superintendent Anne Smith said. “The law enforcement becomes the decision makers, so they need to be able to use our camera system to assess and provide whatever response or intervention they’re providing.”
The police department is also adding an additional School Resource Officer by the 2018-19 school year because for the past 14 years there has only been one. The officers will present the DARE program, have a general presence near the schools and serve as a liaison between the police department and the districts.
Mr. Banks brought up ways to help build relationships between young people and police. An idea that was brought up at all four past Synergy meetings was Positive Ticketing.
Positive Ticketing is the practice of having police officers give out tickets or a “summons” to kids and teens they see doing a good deed. The Southold Police Department, in conjunction with the Anti-Bias Task Force, will work to get the tickets redeemable for treats from local businesses.
Ms. Spar and Ms. Hatzel-Geraci said they wanted to see this implemented by the summer. Mr. Banks is also working to get Positive Ticketing in Southampton, Riverhead and at Suffolk County Community College.
“So it has the businesses, the kids, the law enforcement and community members all connected in this project,” Mr. Banks said. “In my research, I found that officers said young people were running to them instead of away from them to show they did something good.”
Just like there has to be a criteria for a “bad summons,” there will be criteria or guidelines for giving out the positive ones, but none have been set yet.
Although not the focus of the meeting, residents also brought up concerns about ICE raids on the North Fork. Chief Flatley said federal agents do not warn Southold police when they are coming. He urged residents to always call the police if they see something suspicious, so officers can get involved.
Photo caption: Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley (center) spoke about school security and police engagement during the Synergy meeting on Thursday. (Rachel Siford photo)