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Downtown Wellsville Vandalism Persists

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Police Chief Tim O’Grady reacts and provides clarity on “bail reform”

By Andrew Harris, 10/18/21

Earlier this year we reported about the senseless acts of vandalism at Tami’s Floral Expressions. In that article, posted below, her quaint little flower and gift shop were targeted on a monthly basis. The longtime downtown business owner was exasperated and wondering why this was happening? Village police investigated and increased police presence near her shop on Jefferson Street.

Fast forward through the summer and Tami’s little hell hasn’t ended. The florist has been subjected to continued theft and destruction, even harassment and some very bizarre threats. This business owner is at the end of her rope and starting to wonder if the stress is worth the struggle.

Her business isn’t alone either, as other downtown merchants and restaurants are reporting repeated vandalism. Within a collective of reports from village businesses are tales of theft, property destruction, trespassing, and some unmentionables. Many of these issues were reported, investigated by the village police, and arrests have been made.

Another longstanding family owned business, Brand Name Appliance, finally installed video surveillance after thieves removed the catalytic converter from a delivery truck. At L’Italia, a picture perfect restaurant has been shocked at the daily disrespect for others. “I could write a book about the bulls**t we’ve had to deal with,” said Casey, co-owner of the popular destination.

Residents who don’t feel safe strolling down Main Street at night say if the situation is a public safety issue. We asked Wellsville Chief of Police Tim O’Grady about the crimes, about using ARF money to bolster overnight patrols, and to offer suggestions to citizens:

“We have had several reports of theft and some vandalism since the beginning of summer in the Main St. area but nothing excessive.  I certainly wouldn’t say it’s accelerating or at least our reports aren’t indicating that.  I don’t think using the American Rescue Funds for police coverage at night is necessary to protect the businesses. For the geographic size and population of the Village our staffing levels are adequate.   The minor criminal activity that has occurred over the last several  months has been sporadic which makes it more difficult to solve.  Much of this activity is occurring in the overnight hours when there aren’t a lot of people on the streets.  Certainly if a citizen sees criminal activity occurring they should call 911. “

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Law enforcement couldn’t be more frustrated by a problem only made worse by the controversial “bail reform,” recently enacted in New York State. A reality that must be acknowledged is that even when police find and arrest the vandals, the are not taken off the streets, they are given a court date. If and when the accused actually gets to court, they are unlikely to see time behind bars. Many of the vandals, vagrants, and other criminals are repeat offenders, often in the same day!

Chief O’Grady provides readers a more detailed perspective on “bail reform” and its larger implications on our community:

O’Grady, photo by Michael T. Baldwin

“As far as bail reform is concerned; I would say that for crime victims and society in general it has been a failure, just as I anticipated.  However, our elected State officials are touting bail reform as a success.  Everyone ,except the average citizen,  is aware that the current NYS criminal justice system is a joke.  Most people aren’t aware that the hands of the police and the local Justice’s are tied by legislation that was passed in 2020.  When people call the police they are looking for a resolution to a problem they are having.  A lot of time that problem is another person whether it be a spouse, neighbor or stranger.  It’s disheartening when you have to explain to someone, who may be the victim of a crime, that the only thing that can be done is to issue an appearance ticket.  A lot of the time even if we can put a defendant in front of a local Justice for arraignment bail is prohibited from being set.  I’ve read the “catch and release” comments on social media and they are exactly right.  The criminals know this as well which is why you see people repeatedly arrested over a month, week or even a day.  Sometimes setting bail on defendant’s and sending them to the County Jail helps them get access to treatments they normally may not seek.  Typically in Allegany County, defendant’s sent to jail on bail would receive drug treatment, mental health services and/or be released from jail under the supervision of Probation.  All of these choices are more beneficial to the defendant’s and society than repeatedly giving someone a ticket for court.  It appears that the only way to get practical bail reform legislation is to elect people to State government with some common sense.”

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