Sullivan County Democrat
O n l i n e  E d i t i o n National Award-winning, Family-run Newspaper
  NEWS ARCHIVES Established 1891 Callicoon, New York  
home  |  archives
Wurtsboro Mayor Punched;
Vandalism Is Still an Issue

By Nathan Mayberg
WURTSBORO — August 20, 2004 – Village of Wurtsboro Mayor Bob Whitehead said he was punched last week by an unnamed resident who was upset with a lack of garbage pickup – and made his case by dumping it in front of the village hall.
Whitehead has filed assault charges with the State Police. The matter is under investigation. Whitehead would not divulge the name of the attacker until the investigation is completed.
At Monday’s village board meeting, the mayor said the alleged assault occurred after the man in question dumped his garbage for the second time in front of the village hall last week.
Whitehead claimed the man stormed into the village’s office and shouted expletives in front of the secretary. Whitehead stepped outside, picked up the garbage, and placed it back in the man’s truck, and then the individual punched him in the face.
So what’s this all about?
Some residents have complained about garbage allegedly not being picked up by a local hauler. The company may be cited for breach of contract when the board holds a special meeting on Tuesday to discuss the issue.
But lack of garbage pickup doesn’t mean a resident can drop his manners.
“No matter how he justified it, he was wrong,” said Whitehead.
He also cited the incident as an example of some village adults, as well as minors, who are out of control. The mayor said he will continue to patrol the streets at night, despite the attack.
The incident came amidst the village’s formation of a community watch program to fight a rise in vandalism, drug activity, and other unlawful activities.
But Whitehead has not been pleased by the community’s response. A meeting of the watch program last Monday evening drew less than two dozen people.
“This kind of depression is terrible,” he thought of the community’s attitude.
He described a recent incident in which he walked up to a mother whose children were riding ATVs in the street, which is illegal. When he informed her of this, she allegedly unleashed a series of expletives at the mayor in the middle of the street. In addition, he spoke of young adults sitting on top of the slide at the Children’s Park.
Sullivan County Sheriff’s Dept. Sergeant Luis Alvarez, who has been working with village residents on how to form their community watch group, announced that he received a letter from the New York State Attorney General’s office expressing its support for the program as well as video cameras at the location where the vandalism occurred.
But since the last meeting two weeks earlier, Eleanor Rampe’s whole row of flowers were pulled out of the ground and thrown on her front lawn. She believes it was two teenage skateboarders late at night. She said the boys also skated on top of the new equipment at the Children’s Park. More skateboarding on top of the village synagogue was also reported.
Alvarez advised residents to take pictures and videotape suspected illegal activity. He said videotapes and photographs have helped to solve many important cases.
“You’ve got the resources,” said Alvarez.
He instructed the residents to select the individuals they want to be in charge to make the emergency calls. The emergency numbers are 911 or #53 from a cell phone.
“You are the eyes of us,” said Alvarez. “This is not a vigilante group.”
Arthur Wittner said the series of incidents prompted him to install no-trespassing signs and floodlights on his property – something he has never done in the 21 years he has lived in the village. He said the times have drastically changed.
“Twenty years ago, we had respect for parents,” said Wittner.
Emma Chase Elementary School teacher Wandell Jersey affirmed those statements.
“Respect is sorely lacking in this generation,” she said.
She also stated that students at her school were mouthing off to teachers.
She said the majority of the incidents in the village are happening late at night, when most are in bed. She said the vandalism reached her school’s playground earlier in the year, when a play-boat was engraved with expletives.
She placed a lot of the blame on parents for “not keeping their kids in” and teaching them respect. But she also said there is a village curfew that should be enforced.
The curfew runs Sunday through Thursday from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. And on Friday and Saturday, it’s in force from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Alvarez said the problems could be stopped through the formation of teams. The groups would decide which members would watch certain areas at night and day and who would make the calls. Once the perpetrators knew they would be caught anytime they broke the law, they would not return. He also mentioned the fire department as a valuable resource in fighting crime.
Whitehead called on community leaders, particularly business owners in the village, to get more involved. Otherwise, he said, there will be anarchy.
“Nobody wants to step up to the plate,” he said. “I am going to step up to the plate.”

top of page  |  home  |  archives