The Suffolk County Police Department is assigning an additional officer to patrol downtown Patchogue, including monitoring panhandlers, Mayor Paul Pontieri said.
Pontieri said at the village board meeting Monday that both officers will work their shifts on Main Street and South Ocean Avenue, destinations that draw large crowds of people.
Suffolk County Police Insp. William Silva contacted the mayor on Monday informing him the additional officer would start patrolling downtown immediately, Pontieri said.
Silva said they will mostly walk the community, getting to know merchants, pedestrians and panhandlers and assisting in any way possible.
“Patchogue has grown, and there are a lot of events," Silva said. "These are community-oriented officers.”
Pontieri wants the patrols to keep a close eye on bar patrons and panhandlers, many of whom are homeless and often congregate at the train station and outside the library walkway.
"We have so much traffic on Main Street. The panhandling in most downtowns have become a bigger problem," the mayor said.
In 2017, Patchogue officials said they were the first village in New York State to adopt a panhandling ban. Aggressive solicitation such as making physical contact, blocking a person, approaching an operating vehicle or attempting to solicit someone after they have already declined are prohibited.
Pontieri said panhandling has slowed, but few tickets have been issued, and the law hasn't kept crowds of homeless people from gathering around the village.
"There haven't been many charges brought against anyone at this time," the mayor said.
David Kennedy, executive director of the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce, said he welcomes the extra layer of security.
“We recognize Patchogue is the 'it' place, but it only takes one percent of the people to change the perception," Kennedy said. "Having the police is great. We want to make sure everyone is having a good time.”