Riverhead officials are considering a new policing plan for the downtown area — which would include increased foot patrols, cameras and drones — that they said will help improve public safety and revitalize the area.
Police and town officials said the goal also is to help improve the perception of downtown Riverhead. The area began declining in the 1970s as more storefronts became vacant.
“We’re concerned about revitalizing downtown, and part of the revitalization of downtown is also public safety,” Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said in a Sept. 4 interview. “Questions have come up, whether it be the perception of safety or whether people were comfortable parking their cars and walking to an area [downtown].”
Riverhead police officials and the town board discussed a comprehensive policing plan for the downtown area at an Aug. 9 work session.
Splitting Riverhead’s current police foot patrol sector into two sectors would “create more of a community connection in the area that the officers are patrolling," Jens-Smith said. "There’s more eyes and ears in the area, and hopefully that will lead to more people coming to shop and recreate in downtown more.”
The town police department’s current foot patrol sector encompasses the area from Ostrander Avenue heading east to West Main Street and Court Street, stopping short of Railroad Avenue.
Under the proposed policing plan, one sector would cover much of the original sector’s coverage area, while the new sector would add several streets going west, including sections of Lincoln and Pulaski streets, and Hamilton and Sweezy avenues.
Riverhead Town Police Chief David Hegermiller said it takes three full-time officers to cover the sector 16 hours a day, seven days a week. The creation of a new sector would add 3.6 officers to patrol that area.
“With the rebirth of Main Street, there’s more people down there and more people coming in different ways,” Hegermiller said. “[The current foot patrol sector] was a very large sector, and this with more people gives us the advantage of concentrating on those areas more than with just one person.”
Areas that would get more focus include the Long Island Rail Road station on Osborn Avenue and Railroad Street, municipal parking lots that have become crowded and Grangebel Park, a popular gathering place for fireworks, concerts and art displays.
Other recommendations that police have made for improving downtown include a camera and drone surveillance system for Main Street and other downtown areas, street and parking lot lighting and a metered parking system.
Hegermiller and Jens-Smith said adding more police officers would be considered as part of the town’s fiscal 2019 budget. Estimates of the cost of the policing plan are still pending.
Town Councilwoman Catherine Kent, a board liaison with the Downtown Revitalization Committee, said in a Friday interview that revitalizing Riverhead's downtown has been discussed for years and that she anticipates the town board will probably push the plan forward.
“I think Riverhead is at a critical point,” Kent said. “We’re in a scenic location; we just have to build upon that."
Room to improve
Other recommendations for Riverhead's downtown:
- Police call box system strategically located through downtown that captures voice and video while connecting callers directly to police headquarters
- License plate readers that automatically capture DMV registration information, providing law enforcement with information on suspect or illegal vehicles
- Increasing lighting on Main Street, parking district lots, Peconic Riverfront, Grangebel Park, Railroad Avenue, Pulaski Street, adjacent parking lots, Second Street and all roads leading south to Main Street and Ostrander Avenue south of Corwin Street
- Tree trimming to clear vegetation obstructing overhead lighting