Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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August 25th, 2017

Monticello’s War on Crime Focuses Attention on Evergreen

As we await the opening of a new casino, waterpark, health resort, and a great deal of anticipated new development – our County Seat has been in the news a lot lately – both for good and bad reasons.

Thanks to the hard work of Monticello’s elected officials, community leaders, and Village Manager David Sager – the municipality has received numerous grants and great positive headlines.

Unfortunately – all the optimistic encouraging news has been diminished and almost washed away as Monticello has been plagued with an intolerable increase in crime.

The root of much of this crime is coming from the Evergreen Housing Complex, and residents and community leaders have said they have had enough.

As a result of multiple shootings revolving in and around the Monticello Housing Authority (MHA) Complex at Evergreen, there has been a tremendous amount of focus put on the MHA by local officials. While most of the recent violence has not directly involved residents of Evergreen, it has been become known as a meeting place to settle street issues.

Recently, a community meeting was organized by District Attorney, Jim Farrell and Village of Monticello Police Chief Robert Mir. The meeting was well attended by Evergreen residents and included Sheriff Mike Schiff, members of the Sullivan County Human Rights Commission and Legislature Chairman Luis Alverez.

All are looking for solutions to eliminate drug, violence and crime activities in the complex so that residents can live in peace and harmony.

Recommendations to the MHA Board and Director Ann Cahill-Johanson include significantly improving and modernizing their current surveillance system; repairing and updating existing lighting within the complex; adding additional lighting to create a safer environment; removing existing bushes, shrubs and trees that hinder appropriate sight distances; speaking with neighboring properties to clear wooded “cut through” areas for safety; community-based patrolling; increased cooperation with local police agencies; and even the potential of a security gate.

Village of Monticello Manager, David Sager, spoke at the meeting and expressed his frustrations with the current board and administration.

Sager reminded the public that he is the person who oversees the appointment of MHA Board Members and that there would be wholesale changes coming to the board.

Sager stressed the need for professional diversity on the board and has been disappointed that not one of the current board members actually resides in Evergreen, which is the primary and largest housing development overseen by MHA.

With several board seats coming up for re-appointment, Sager asked for input from the community for appropriate board applicants.

Monticello Police Chief Robert Mir and his police force has been aggressive in fighting crime in the Village, and has made a record number of arrests this summer.

Discussing the Evergreen situation with me, Mir said, “Evergreen was the scene of several violent crimes during the months of June and July of this year. Information learned by the Monticello Police Department indicates that there were as many as 10 incidents of shots fired during this time frame. Many went unreported, but there were 3 confirmed victims of gunshot wounds. “Evergreen” has become synonymous as the place to meet to settle differences, just like the school yard was in days past. The residents of Evergreen Housing have been held hostage by outside individuals that have used Evergreen as a shooting gallery.”

Mir said, “The safety and security of our residents is paramount. No one in Evergreen, or in any other complex or neighborhood, should be subjected to the fear and uncertainty of violence while they go about their day to day activities. In our assessment, the most effective and immediate response was to increase police presence, surveillance security and lighting.”

The Monticello Police have partnered with the New York State Police and the Sullivan County District Attorney.  Monticello patrols and detectives are supplemented by members of the NYSP Patrol Division and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Investigators from the DA’s office.

Additionally, MPD met with the Director of the Monticello Housing Authority and the Board of Directors. The Board authorized the repair and/or replacement of 5 obsolete surveillance cameras. A community meeting was held to inform and create a dialogue with the residents of Evergreen.

And what was probably the greatest accomplishment so far, was to get NYSEG to repair the street lights on Evergreen Drive. Of 11 street lights, 8 were nonfunctioning since at least April of this year.

Mir was fortunate to have a conversation with a very understanding and sympathetic staff member at NYSEG, who took a personal interest and made sure that the street lights were repaired immediately.

In the last month, several handguns have been taken off the streets of Monticello. No knock Search warrants have been executed at several addresses in the Village and large amounts of drugs have been seized.

Mir said, “And while there has been a noticeable and positive outcome, measurable by the decrease in crime and calls for service, a long term solution must be formulated.”

Monticello Businessman Les Kristt who is playing an active role in the Evergreen situation told me, “The folks that live in Evergreen are typically good honest folks who need some help like the rest of us to keep safe and secure in their homes or businesses. It is the responsibility of the Monticello Housing Authority as well as the governments and good people of the Village of Monticello and the County of Sullivan to give them this help. In my business location in Monticello, I get the help of Rob Mir and the Monticello Police as well as the other Village and County services to keep me secure and up and running.”

Kristt claims, “Everyone believes those committing violence and crime at Evergreen either do not live there or do not belong there. If the people that commit the crimes are kept out of Evergreen or identified once they enter Evergreen, it will contribute a great deal to arresting the perpetrators and keeping those that live there way safer.”

“There are a number of positive people that are trying to facilitate a method of placing better lighting there, an extensive surveillance system, and modifying the landscape for better sight. This will go a long way to making Evergreen a much better and safer place to live and the Village of Monticello a much more desirable place to visit and shop. We will absolutely overcome the obstacles that may be in the way of accomplishing our goals,” Kristt added.

Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Luis Alvarez told me, “What has happened and is happening at Evergreen demands our attention, and we will not ignore those in need, nor those who seek to harm those in need. We’re working with Congressman John Faso as we speak to locate a grant to help Evergreen, and we are going to continue to do whatever is possible to assist them. Evergreen’s residents are our neighbors, our friends and our constituents. They deserve no less.”

The NAACP is also taking an active role in fighting crime in Evergreen.

A petition being circulated in Monticello asks the Town of Thompson and Sullivan County to assist in the war being waged in Evergreen.

Here is what the petition says:

      We attended the meeting at the Monticello Housing Authority the other evening when many in the community were there to discuss the ongoing violence and shootings that seem to continually occur at Evergreen. In attendance was the District Attorney, the Chief of Police, the Monticello Village Manager, the Sheriff, the Chairman of the County Legislature, many of the Housing Authority board, and a large number of concerned citizens to discuss solutions to the problem.

There seemed to be a number of different opinions and ideas on how we should go about trying to stop the violence. The discussion was moving and passionate. One need that almost everyone in the room seemed to agree on was the need for more lighting and a modern surveillance system that can catch any negative activity on camera and identify those that are doing the deeds. The big problem is finding funds for this particular solution. Most people in the room also agreed that most of those that are causing problems either do not live in Evergreen or do not belong there.

There are many reasons that funding for a project like this should be a top priority for all the appropriate political entities. Those entities are the County of Sullivan, the Town of Thompson and the Village of Monticello.  First and foremost is the safety and well-being of those citizens that live there. They deserve all the help they can get to live without fear in their own homes and when they go out onto the nearby grounds and streets.

As we all know, Monticello is the County Seat for Sullivan and is the home of our County Court House and County Government Center. Monticello is visited pretty much by everyone who lives in the county many times during the course of a year. Monticello is also the heart of the Town of Thompson. Many people who visit Sullivan County must come into Monticello as well. It is imperative that Monticello be perceived as and actually be a safe place to drive in and walk the streets.

 On the internet those that want to talk negative about Monticello refer to it by the despicable term “Montighetto.” Our County is hopefully on the verge of a financial and beautification Renaissance. It is an absolute necessity for all of us, to try and turn around the negative picture that some are trying to paint of our County. Fixing the violence problem at Evergreen in Monticello will go a long way to that end.

In the last year or two the County of Sullivan and the Town of Thompson seem to be getting along fairly well with their cash flow and budgets. The County has been getting a fair amount more in sales tax than they had planned. Both the Town & the County have each received $2,500,000 from the new casino recently with expectations of receiving a pleasant amount more once it opens in March, 2018. The Village unfortunately seems to be having its financial problems being they do not have direct access to these funding sources.

We propose for both the County & the Town to give the Village of Monticello $50,000 each (total of $100,000) from the casino money to purchase and install a new surveillance system and more lighting at Evergreen. If these two projects together take a reasonable amount more money to facilitate then that funding should be seriously considered as well. We, the concerned citizens, feel that when the concept of a casino(s) was considered for Sullivan County and upstate New York, that projects like this that would in the end enhance the entire community, is exactly what those that passed the laws allowing casino(s) felt the money should be going towards. One point that many people have made about the advent of a casino in Sullivan County is that it would bring more crime. Using casino money to help eliminate violence at Evergreen would actually lesson crime in our county.

We all thank you for the consideration that you will be giving this proposal.

Yours truly,

Concerned Residents of Monticello

Thank you for this group effort. I hope all this community involvement will be successful in Evergreen.

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself on National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the “MOUTH THAT ROARS” Column in THE SULLIVAN COUNTY POST.



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