Owego residents react to potential police cuts

By Julianne Peixoto

July 28, 2014 Updated Jul 29, 2014 at 12:17 AM EDT

Owego, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Potential police cuts have Owego residents worried about the future safety of their village.

Last week, the Owego Police Department posted a photo of a flyer on Facebook asking residents to attend Monday night's special village board meeting to protest the cuts.

Some changes the board is discussing include leaving two currently empty -- yet funded -- police officer positions permanently vacant, and getting rid of Owego police patrols between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Some board members said the Tioga County Sheriff's Office and New York State Police would pick up the slack for the overnight shift.

"I believe the crime rate would go up because people will know that there’s not a dedicated officer patrolling the streets," said Owego resident Patrick Cartwright. "And, the response time is higher [for state police and sheriff's department]."

Dozens of residents attended the special meeting Monday night to speak out against the proposed cuts.

"I don't think that the sheriff or the state police can provide the coverage that the Owego police do," said Owego resident Gaye Sautro.

While the majority of people in attendance were against any cuts to the department, one resident believed it was worth it to cut positions in order to save tax dollars.

"We just cannot afford it. This village can’t afford this kind of police protection that we’re getting," said Owego resident Jim Legursky. "We don’t need police officers during the day riding around in the car doing nothing."

But Trustee Ann Lockwood said until a decision is made, there is no need for the public to panic.

"This meeting tonight, all the comments are very premature," said Lockwood. "We aren't ready to give our side yet, we have not made a decision."

Mayor Kevin Millar said he is in strong support of filling the two vacant positions as soon as possible.

He said the vote to fill the positions was tabled at the last board meeting.

"Some of the trustees wanted to look at the issue further," said Millar. "I think some of the trustees would like to do away with the department entirely. However, since we haven’t spoken openly about that, it’s just been rumor-mill information."

The president of the Owego Police Union, Brett Kobylarz, said the department has already filed a grievance in regards to the situation, and they are prepared to do more if necessary.

"As a union we're prepared to fight this all the way because we know the village residents need us here," said Kobylarz.

The next regular board meeting is Aug. 4.