Police officers in the Village of Blasdell are taking to the streets, and it’s not just in patrol cars or when chasing a criminal on foot pursuit. Village police officers are now out and about on bicycle patrol, a re-established duty stated by Blasdell Police Lieutenant Joe Gramaglia as having value in community visibility.
Gramaglia, who spoke at last Wednesday’s (July 18) village board meeting, said bicycle patrol has existed in the police department since roughly the late 1990s, with a prior specified usage during the former Freedom Festival held in the summer. It is coming back at the current time on Wednesdays to service the designated areas of the Farmers’ Market on South Park Avenue and the Summer Concert Series at JFK Playground. As many as five Blasdell police officers had been trained through what was stated to be a grueling bike patrol course taught by instructors at the University at Buffalo campus.
Police Officer A.J. Ortiz specifically has been assigned to Wednesday bicycle duty, while fellow Officer Casey Cogins has also seen similar action, with each officer stopping at local businesses and garnering insight from local residents and shop owners.
“They’re visible,” Gramaglia said of police assigned to bicycle patrol. “There are advantages to having them out there. It’s been well received by the community…We’ve been vigorously looking to get up to speed with our (law enforcement agency) counterparts.”
There are two designated patrol bicycles slated for department use, although it was said that one had been slated for repair.
Blasdell Mayor Michael Petrie said he likes the idea of the bicycle patrol and encouraged Gramaglia to continue the initiative. The Farmers’ Market in Blasdell debuted during its designated time between 7:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. on July 11 at its location in the parking lot of Ilio DiPaolo’s Restaurant, a display that featured stands containing locally grown and made goods, including; fresh fruit, vegetables, plants, seedlings, flowers, goat’s milk, soaps and lotions, fudge, pierogies, shrubs and other items.
Petrie described the opening of the “Market” as a success, stating that a solid crowd of residents gathered to purchase goods, resulting in substantial sales for vendors. Petrie said it is his expectation that the event will continue to grow exponentially in its first season in the village.
“I love to see people walking around (the market), and it gets attention for the center of the village as well as the businesses in that area,” said Petrie. “(In addition to Blasdell residents) People from Lackawanna, South Buffalo and the surrounding area should make use of it.” The market is slated to run through Nov. 7.
With the police presence on bike patrol, both residents and market proprietors should feel a heightened sense of safety and well-being.
The initiative is just one of several items of interests being mentioned as taking place within the Blasdell Police Department. Gramaglia said the addition of a digital fingerprinting and mug shot system, described as a complex and expensive “LiveScan” mechanism, will be part of a needed departmental upgrade. The LiveScan will offer a system that is in accordance with New York State law enforcement standards, according to Gramaglia, who added that previous village equipment lacked a necessary terminal to perform such duties. It was also stated that felony arrests occurring in Blasdell had previously involved transferring a suspect to the Town of Hamburg Police Department to perform breathalyzer and fingerprinting parameters, if a crime had involved the necessity of such items. However, general processing of crimes still took place within the Village of Blasdell Police unit. The police lieutenant stated that updating the department’s computer and email system, which goes hand in hand with a $1,200 remodeling of the patrol room into an arrest/booking area, is a tremendous boost to basic communication.
Gramaglia said a busy last month of police enforcement has produced three DWI arrests, including one incident involving a driver being under the influence of narcotics. Additionally, extra officer shifts have been offered in an effort to curb what had been described as problematic situation of speeding drivers traveling unsafely on village streets.
Also, each of 19 listed part-time Village of Blasdell police officers are slated to take part in a Taser training seminar that satisfies firearms qualifications in the case of Blasdell purchasing such a device. The certified training involves officers taking part in being jolted by a Taser, as well as the participants firing the device, each action demonstrating an ability to handle the firearm and understand its capability.
Gramaglia said the department is looking into the possibility of purchasing a Taser, an expenditure that would require the additional buying of projectile cartridges for the device.
The Taser seminar was scheduled to begin last Friday (July 20) in the North Collins training range, with a follow-up session slated for the following Monday.
“There’s a lot of good things going on in the department,” Gramaglia said in reference to the numerous initiatives listed for Blasdell Police. The police lieutenant has served in his current capacity since early June, being appointed to his position by the Village Board following the resignation of former Police Chief Mike Melisz. Gramaglia introduced to the board last Wednesday new Police Officer Andrew Gardner, who was appointed to the part-time duty by a vote of 4-0. The board also voted to accept resignations from part-time police officers Anthony Andolina and Sean Hotnich.
Other departmental items included Petrie stating that a decent possibility exists for the village’s volunteer fire company to upgrade its ambulance care unit to having an “advanced care” status, one which is a step below “paramedic” level but includes transporting patients – among other new items – while providing a continual cost savings to residents. The village currently offers the basic level of EMT response, but Petrie said that he believes upgrading to the intermediate, “advanced” level in the department is worth the cost involved. Such proposed changes would include a bill of about $1,800, funds including materials to be purchased and insurance monies.