Robbery on Greenwich Avenue versus robbing the taxpayers

I have every sympathy for the victims of a robbery. It must be a traumatic thing to experience. So, it would be logical for one to assume that high-running emotions were behind the crass school-boy language used in a NYC television interview by a victim of a recent jewelry heist in Greenwich. While his invective was uncivil it was understandable. What is not understandable is the continuation of the sarcasm, ridicule and vitriol weeks after the trauma.

This past week we read two more stories in our local daily about the owner of a Greenwich Avenue jewelry store recently robbed. He is demanding that a police officer be stationed feet away from his store at taxpayer expense. The owner said he intends to make this a political issue in the next local election. I welcome that. It would be the “Tea Party” in reverse. Perhaps we could call it the “Silver Spoon Party.”

It would make interesting political theater to hear the millionaire owner of a chain of jewelry stores explain in a public forum why the taxpayers of our Greenwich should foot the $200,000 a year cost of stationing a police officer from 9 to 5 Monday through Saturday directing traffic near his store because, as he put it in the paper “It’s better to have a police officer respond in a few seconds than a few minutes.” Heck, I’d like a cop to respond to my needs in a few seconds too.

Why should all the taxpayers have to pay so certain people get preferred service?  If the jewelry store owners in the Greenwich Ave./Lewis St. neighborhood want more protection, why don’t they hire off-duty, armed, uniformed police as other businesses in Town do? Or why not have a Greenwich Avenue “tax district” which assesses all merchants to pay for such services as is done in the Stamford’s Downtown District?

The owner of the robbed jewelry store made the staffing decision not to have a private security guard among the reported 30 employees working at his Greenwich Avenue jewelry store the morning of the robbery, but he has the audacity to criticize the staffing decision of the police chief, who removed a traffic officer from Lewis St. in March 2009 for budgetary reasons. Which of these two staffing decisions more directly impacted the events of that morning?

Let’s look at facts surrounding the 2009 decision by the police chief. The police department, like all Town agencies, is and has been working to reduce costs to the taxpayers with the least impact on service. Removing one of the three Greenwich Avenue traffic officers turned a five officer rotation into a three officer rotation, saving over $200,000 a year. Part of that savings has been allocated toward putting former traffic officers on patrol – benefiting not just one block but all of our Greenwich.

So, which of the traffic officers to remove for the $200,000 savings? Of the three corners formerly staffed by traffic officers, Havemeyer Ave. and Elm Street, by far, have the most traffic volume, and Lewis St. the least. The chief made a perfectly reasonable and rational staffing decision.

What does our Greenwich have to show for the 2009 police staff reassignment? Look town-wide at the crime level.  Burglaries in the back country have recently been solved;  Byram is much safer in the year 2010 than it was a couple of years ago. Other areas of town have seen more police than in the past.  Drug arrests are up. All of our Greenwich has benefited from extra patrols by removing two officers from an assigned traffic post and putting them in cars where they can patrol and respond.

Remember, Greenwich Avenue traffic officers are out there for one sole purpose — traffic control. Traffic control need not be performed by a sworn police officer. Yet, this jewelry store owner ridiculed the First Selectman-cum-Police Commissioner’s thought that the Town negotiate with the police union to free up the remaining traffic officers from Greenwich Avenue so they can do higher-value police work by replacing them with unarmed civilians to direct traffic.  Doesn’t the jewelry store owner understand that if he wants “a beat officer” (to use his term) on Greenwich Avenue, it is more likely to happen if sworn officers are freed up from traffic duty?