TUPPER LAKE – The Tupper Lake Police Department is reducing its night patrol shift as it struggles with a historically low number of active personnel, cutting village police hours to 24/7, just 12 hours a day.
TLPD Chief Eric Proulx said from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. there will be no officers at the police department. This is because the department has a staff shortage which has reached a “critical point,” he said.
During this half day, State Police Troopers will respond to 911 calls but will not be on patrol. This will mean a slower response time for calls, he said.
“Nothing will change for the public. If you call 911, you’ll get 911. It might not be in five minutes. It may be in five hours. said Proulx. “If something happens in Long Lake and we have a service call here in Tupper Lake, whether it’s a household complaint or a noise complaint, it could be hours before they respond. come here.”
He said the state police couldn’t add troops to the area because they didn’t have enough.
Proulx said his department currently has nine members, including himself. It’s not the lowest it’s been, but half of them can’t be active.
Two officers are School Resource Officers stationed at the two school buildings in the city during school days. An agent is on maternity leave until September. Another is on long-term disability for a medical condition. There have been recent retirements and the village council approved the resignation of an officer at Wednesday’s meeting.
“This is a series of events that couldn’t come at a worse time for our community,” said Proulx. “Crime is at an all-time high.”
At Wednesday’s meeting, Proulx’s monthly report to the board showed the TLPD had received 182 calls in the past month. Not all of them were crimes – some were responses to open houses and helping other agencies – but there were also 10 responses to domestic disputes and child abuse, three burglaries, seven harassment calls , four burglary reports, six theft reports, numerous wellness checks and citizen help pages. Proulx said it was the highest crime rate he had seen in his career. These calls resulted in 16 arrests, including those for assault, driving while intoxicated, harassment, petty larceny and harm to the well-being of a disabled person.
Proulx said he is reducing the night shift because the department’s call volume is 45% higher during the day.
Proulx said this arrangement will be “as temporary as I can get.”
His plan is to have 24/7 return patrols by early December if all goes well – if no one else leaves and medical leave goes well. He doesn’t expect it to go well.
“Things don’t usually go well for me when it comes to staff,” said Proulx.
He hopes to hire someone from this list and enroll them in a training school starting in August. But he said the Franklin County Civil Service list, from which police departments must hire, is very low.
“I can’t find any cops to hire” said Proulx.
Last year, he said 35 people passed the police officer exam. There are nine on the roster currently for all county police departments to hire. Proulx said the Saranac Lake and Malone police departments face the same shortage.
Proulx said officers are also “fed up with law enforcement” and leave the field completely.
“No one wants to be a cop anymore” said Proulx. “It’s not about the money, especially with the state police. It is because of the way they are treated in society.
Council members asked if there were other law enforcement to help out at night.
“Unfortunately, you live in one of the few places in the state where the county does not have a sheriff’s patrol.” said Proulx.
In the evening, Proulx said there was more drug sales and use. He said the types of drugs they now see in Tupper Lake are more dangerous than in the past. Years ago, he said officers mostly found cannabis and cocaine.
Cannabis was legalized in New York, so Proulx said he no longer polices that. But stronger drugs like methamphetamine and heroin have become more common. He said the drugs seep into other types of crimes.
“Property crimes have increased, thefts have exploded and shoplifting is out of control,” said Proulx.
He said his officers are finding guns and knives more often.
Robin Jacobs, a resident of the village, attended Wednesday’s meeting to ask the police to ticket people driving noisy trucks in the town. She said they were a nuisance and noisy mufflers rumbled through her peaceful days as trucks sped through their gears on Park Street.
Last year, the state introduced a new muffler law that went into effect April 1. The law imposes larger fines for violating existing muffler modifications – up to $1,000.
Jacobs said she knows the five offending trucks she hears by sight. Proulx said he probably also knew the drivers of those trucks, and they’ve probably been getting tickets for months. But he said state bail reform makes it difficult to enforce fines for traffic violations.
Proulx said New York’s bail reform didn’t just change bail rules. It has also made it nearly impossible to enforce fines for many types of offences, he said, so they often go unpaid and unpunished. He said it’s “Raising crime” because people can commit crimes knowing that nothing is going to happen.
Administrator Ron LaScala likened it to a parent threatening to punish a child over and over but never actually doing it.
“So you wonder why they don’t limit their behavior,” he said.
“I agree on both sides of the fence that yes, people have probably been put in jail because they didn’t have the money to get out for very minor offences,” said Proulx. “So I understand the fact that there has to be reform.”
Proulx said the issue would have to be taken to Albany to get a change, but he doubts there will be any soon.