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Orchard Park Police hold community forum

Orchard Park police said Tuesday that they want a two-way conversation with residents, to hear what’s going on in neighborhoods and to let residents know what police can do to help.

About 50 people attended a community forum Tuesday evening in the Municipal Center, from high school students looking to fulfill a requirement for their government class, to business owners, to senior citizens asking about street lights.

Interim Police Chief Mark Pacholec told them he wants more interaction with the community. He said he plans to have more community forums and to institute programs such as a Citizens Police Academy to increase residents’ knowledge of the Police Department.

Pacholec, accompanied by a handful of police and command officers, went through a 30-minute presentation of department initiatives and plans and then answered questions for an hour.

He said the number of service calls has increased from just over 12,000 in 1997 to 26,000 last year. The number of officers has dropped from 31 in 1997 to 27, although he said the town plans to appoint three additional officers in the next year.

Pacholec said most residents have contact with police through traffic stops or when they have a complaint.

“It needs to be more of a positive interaction,” he said.

Community policing initiatives include starting a Citizens Police Academy where 15 to 20 residents at a time would learn about police work and the capabilities of the department. Those people would not train to be officers, but would become “allies” in the community, Pacholec said.

He said he wants officers to attend civic events and is looking into instituting foot patrols in the village and at Quaker Crossing, using social media to publicize police activities, and using statistics to help direct how police patrol. The department also will be equipped with tasers this year.

Councilman Eugene Majchrzak said several business people in town are creating a police foundation to support some police initiatives.

Police also encouraged residents to let them know if they know of people who are acting erratically or in a concerning manner, and they will check in on them regularly.

“If you know someone you are concerned about, or afraid of, let us know. I’m not going to arrest them, I’m not going to say the neighbor across the street called and said ‘you’re crazy.’ I’m going to check up on the person to see how they’re doing,” Officer Joseph Ray said.

“We need information to come to us so we can effectively use the assets we have to address your problems. There’s information we’re not getting. There’s only so many of us,” Pacholec said. “This is where we live, this is where we raise our families. We don’t want the problems here either.”

Residents seemed pleased with the forum and applauded at the end of it.