The city council asks for the community’s participation in the public safety committee

ROME- The Rome Common Council met for a special business session on Wednesday in preparation for a public safety meeting to be held on Wednesday, November 16 to address residents’ concerns about rising crime in the city.

The public safety meeting will be open to the community and local business owners and will be held at 6 p.m. at the South Rome Senior Center, 112 Ridge St.

First Ward Councilman John M. Sparace, chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee, opened the session by outlining some of the results of the Oct. 20 special public safety meeting with residents and business owners.

Those present on October 20 “were very candid about the issues. … There was a little too much chatter for my liking, but I understand people getting frustrated and taking it personally,” Sparace said.

As for the Nov. 16 meeting, “what we’re looking to do is set up committees that deal with all the issues raised by residents and business owners” on Oct. 20, he said. “I think it would be good to get the whole board together and make it a board initiative. Crime is a problem and I think we all know that. We have a great police department and I have no problem with them – they are not the reason” for the November 16 meeting.

Sparace continued, “I take it personally if people attack our police department, especially as president of public safety. We have found and thought about the main parts of the issues, and we will try to set up committees with residents, business owners and whoever would like to be part of it, and work on certain things. Once we have this meeting, we hope to get some cooperation, and I hope that the police department and the administration will welcome us and join us.

The key to making the public safety initiative work is having community input and getting them on these committees, said city council president Stephanie Viscelli.

“We really need community input, and I would like to see us create these committees with the idea – maybe at the first meeting – that an advisor works with each committee so that we are the bridge to administration and then allow the committees to be like a citizen action group, like we did with the establishment of the neighborhood watch programs,” Viscelli said. “So maybe every councilor should have a neighborhood watch group for each neighborhood, and maybe they could meet quarterly.”

She said: “The purpose” of the October 20 meeting “was for us to hear the concerns of the community and businesses, and now it is time to work on the solutions. One idea is that we could also network businesses together.

Viscelli also pointed to some of the councilors’ strengths, such as Third Ward councilor Kimberly Rogers’ knowledge of nuisance law, and she said she can offer knowledge about criminal evictions while working with landlords and the owners.

Another category examined, Viscelli said, was the gun buyback program. And with the Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) program, “we’re looking for people to join and get people involved in that – maybe have it year-round like we had the Civilian Police Academy years ago. years,” Viscelli said. “We all spoke with the chef (David) Collins and he thought maybe restarting the academy could be a possibility, and maybe it could be a feeding program for VIPS.”

The chairman of the common council also explained how the councilors felt it was necessary to have an “educational component” in the meetings, and that it was necessary to organize information sessions for the residents, the owners and business owners on how nuisance law works, and also to offer advice on how people can better protect their homes and businesses. Viscelli said there was also a need to partner with community organizations that have links to resources or who could help identify gaps in resources, for example when it comes to mental health issues and substance addiction.

Fourth Ward Councilman Ramona L. Smith suggested that the council derive a mission statement from what it hopes to accomplish through this initiative. She also suggested getting up-to-date crime statistics for the city and making them available to the public.

“Everyone says crime is on the rise. Does the police department have any numbers on what it is now versus what it was before? asked Smith. “If we don’t focus on the right things, we won’t have the right solutions. I think it’s also important to educate people about security issues and how to create a safe environment. »

Viscelli said Chief Collins said he was interested in working on the educational side – information and guidance to provide groups.

“He’s interested in the idea of ​​educating the public and helping them make their property safer and reduce crime,” she said. “We also met with the NAACP and (President Jacqueline Nelson) already has a lot of connections to community resources and is willing to help with the educational component on mental health, addictions and those types of issues.”

As for security components, maybe a group or groups representing business can look at “some of the remaining ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) – maybe it can be used to pole cameras or business lighting, or for individual alarm systems in neighborhoods,” Councilor Rogers said. “I think it’s important that citizens are involved because ultimately , these are their homes, these are their businesses – communication with them is key.”

And when it comes to reporting a tenant, a neighbor, or if someone spots suspicious activity in their neighborhood, “community members need to understand that they also need to do their part, and we need to ensure they have a ‘protection from retaliation’ which I think goes a long way,” Smith said.

Fifth Ward Councilman Frank R. Anderson stressed the need to involve the administration in the process as well.

“If we’re going to move forward in this area, we need the administration’s support,” Anderson said. “We talked about the chief’s involvement, but the codes are also a big part of that.”