OSWEGO, NY – The recent Oswego Community Neighborhood Watch Program meeting provided an update on the city’s nuisance abatement ordinance.
Nearly two dozen people attended the informational session at Oswego Library.
According to coordinator Betty Gray, the more people know about the ordinance, the more they will be able to help police enforce it.
Oswego Police Sgt. Craig Bateman and First Ward Councilor Connie Cosemento offered information about the law and answered questions from the audience.
Gray said she was pleased with the turnout.
“Communication means a lot to a neighborhood watch program,” she said.
There are 1,500 people on the program; most are all watchers and there are two block captains, one on the east side and one on the west side, she added.
“The nuisance abatement ordinance was created to address establishments and property in the city of Oswego that created a risk to the quality of life for the residents,” Sgt. Bateman said.
“As the police are concerned we can address individual issues, like if someone living in a residence commits a crime, we address that. We make arrests, we charge them accordingly. But that doesn’t have any affect on the residence itself, on the actual house,” he continued. “So the purpose of the ordinance is to address residence that has multiple offenders or multiple offenses. It’s done on a points system. Once you reach a certain amount of points, that residence is considered a violation.”
It doesn’t just deal with people who are arrested; it also deals with violation of ordinances such as not removing trash, junk vehicles or zoning violations, he added.
He described how the process plays out after an arrest.
“It’s not always as simple as A-B-C,” he said. “There are a lot of hoops that have to be jumped through some times. There is a lot of stuff that goes into play.”
From the outside, looking in, it may seem like nothing is being done, he noted.
But, there is a lot that needs to be accomplished, he explained.
“The idea is to improve the quality of life for the citizens, the residents of the neighborhoods and that’s what we’re trying to do,” he said.
A resident asked him if any houses have been closed down under the ordinance.
“No house has been closed down, yet, under the nuisance abatement ordinance that I’m aware of,” he said. “Councilor, are you aware of any one?” he asked Cosemento.
“No, but I know of two separate $1,000 fines that have taken place just this year. We’ve had a banner year in court this year,” she replied.
She credited the assistant city attorney for taking the cases to court and getting a lot of settlements recently.
“If someone is willing to come into compliance, that is what we’re looking for,” Sgt. Bateman said. “It’s not necessarily the punishment; it is getting the problem fixed. If we can do that, then we’ve accomplished what we set out to do.”
“The main purpose is to get the problem solved,” Cosemento agreed. “It has been effective. I have a couple of landlords who tell me that they are having issues with a certain group of students and we have an agreement with the college that if we can identify the students we can get these students called in in front of the dean of students at the college.”
There have been times when the students are kicked out of school as a result of their actions, she added.
A copy of every (student) arrest in the city is sent to the college; and they deal with them separately, she noted.
“If you see something, say something, she advised the group. If you don’t let your alderman know, especially the police, then these properties go unnoticed on the (OPD) data base. They need to go on that data base,” the councilor said.
“Garbage and trash is probably the biggest problem, she continued. “So if your garbage is out in bags or in cans without lids, you can expect to get a ticket.”
This year the city has had much success in nuisance abatement, she added.
Another of the citizens’ concern is the so-called “drunk bus,” which picks up and drops of college students on the weekends.
There is no regulation on taxis as to where they can pick up or drop off fares, Cosemento explained.
City officials are in the process of finding a way to address this issue in regards to residential areas, she added.
“These buses drop people off at these houses but a lot of times they pick people up there as well,” Sgt. Bateman pointed out. “So, say there is a large party with 100 people at a house and they’re going to pick up some people. So you are not going to have that widespread walking throughout the neighborhood. We understand that it is an issue, dropping these people off. But, consider if there is a party at that house, these people are going to come there whether they have to walk or get dropped off somehow.”
The bus also picks up people and takes them back to wherever they’re going, he pointed out.
“It is also for great for downtown when the bars let out. These buses pull up, they load people on and they’re going. We don’t have the typical lingering in the street in large crowds downtown at 2 or 2:30 in the morning,” he said. “It’s night and day difference having that. It’s actually working to our advantage.”
“The only problem with that is downtown isn’t a residential area. Now you are transporting them all up to houses and that creates a problem,” First Ward Councilor-elect Fran Enwright pointed out.
“Hopefully, we can establish new routes for the buses to take care of the problem,” Cosemento said.
Landlords have to be cognizant of what is happening at their properties, the councilor added.
“If you tell them there are some problems and they just say, call the police, that is a cop out,” Cosemento said. “If they can’t control the behavior of their tenants, then they should get rid of them.”
She urged people to look out for their neighbors.
“If you don’t take care of the small problems, chances are they are going to escalate. If you see someone who is suspicious, it doesn’t hurt to call the police and tell them this guy looks out of place,” Cosemento said.
“It could make the difference between catching someone who has been going through all the cars in the neighborhood and us not knowing who it is,” Sgt. Bateman said.
Word about the work Neighborhood Watch is doing has gotten out verbally, Gray noted, adding the group is also handing out stickers, street signs and flyers.
“I have two more street signs left and they are being put up at the entrance of 481 and 48,” she said. “When I get more signs, two of them will go out at the other two entrances of the city out by Lowe’s and 104 West.”
“People do want our quality of life back in out city and to be proactive,” she added. “The community is calling the police department and 911 more to report suspicious activity and groups of people threatening or causing damage to their property or neighbor’s.”
Gray said she tells people to “ask 911 please don’t put it on the scanner because certain people hear about the issue and they call their friends up right away and then they run before the police get there.”
She stressed safety.
“We are letting the public know not to deal with issues by themselves. Call 911 instead because we don’t want anybody to get hurt by taking action on there own,” she explained. “This cause more problems.”
For more information, contact her at 342-9388 or email at [email protected]
In case of emergency, she added, call 911.
The group’s website is http://www.oswegocommunityneighborhoodwatchprogram.webs.com/