Looking Back in Philipstown in the Jan. 14 issue included two interesting tidbits from January 1972: “The teen center on Main Street was closed indefinitely” and “Cold Spring, for the first time, had 24-hour police protection.”
We don’t know whether the cost of 24-hour policing consumed funds that could have kept the teen center open. But we know that village policing costs Cold Spring more than $500,000 a year, and the cost is about to grow.
Since 1972, violent and property crimes have fallen nationwide, a sheriff substation opened in Nelsonville and there are more services to help the mentally ill. Crimes more serious than vandalism are rare in the village. Yet the police wield great influence over Village Hall, and at their urging, the trustees are poised to approve the installation of more surveillance cameras in public areas and the purchase of bodycams for officers. These measures will cost taxpayers $50,000 in the first year and $10,000 every year after.
The Village Board’s thinking on policing is formed by a one-sided stream of information. The trustees regularly hear from the police about the threat of crime. But because of an absence of public awareness, the trustees seldom hear the other side: the quality-of-life investments (such as tree plantings) that must be sacrificed to pay for cameras and continuous policing in general, the replacement of trust by suspicion, the intimidating effect of constant patrols on minority groups and the lack of evidence justifying the expense of high policing in a low-crime setting.
When the mentality of safety-ism takes hold, each new enforcement power is an argument for the next one. Gradually the community is defined by fear and defense instead of creativity and growth. If this trend concerns you, speak out on the record by writing to the Village Board or commenting at meetings.
Eliza Starbuck, Cold Spring
Starbuck is a Cold Spring village trustee.