The Riverhead Business Improvement District voted against a plan to bring the Guardian Angels to the downtown area at its meeting Wednesday night.
Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter and Police Chief David Hegermiller recently gave the green light to have volunteers from the Guardian Angels patrol downtown as a deterrent to crime.
But since then, four Town Board members and the head of the Riverhead Police Benevolent Association have come out in opposition to that plan and say they don’t think the Guardian Angels are needed.
And on Wednesday, Riverhead BID members added their names to the list of people opposing the Guardian Angels.
BID president Ray Pickersgill and members John Mantzopolous, Bill Andes, Dee Muma, Steve Shaugher, Bob Barauskas, Dee Muma, Phil Hancock, Bill Allan and Larry Oxman voted against the Guardian Angels plan. BID members Isabelle Gonzalez, Ray Dickhoff and Bob Hartman were absent from the meeting.
“We’re trying to change the perception of Riverhead and I believe we truly have,” Mr. Pickergill said.
Mr. Mantzopoulos said he believes Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa has falsely depicted there being a gang problem with the local Hispanic community.
Mr. Mantzopoulos also described the Guardian Angels’ presence where he lives in Greenport as “almost non-existent” and doesn’t believe the red berets are effective.
Mr. Sliwa has said his group started patrolling in Greenport last fall following a gang-related shooting in Southold.
Riverhead store owners, Mr. Mantzopoulos said, should act as the neighborhood’s “Guardian Angels.”
“We have more at stake than some volunteers with red berets,” he said.
While the BID voted against the Guardian Angels plan, it supported installing new security cameras downtown.
The most recent price estimate is about $1,000 per camera, which would be installed above stalls and could be viewed remotely by cell phones or computers.
Since the BID is a taxing entity, Mr. Pickersgill said the town is requiring the BID to issue a request for proposals in order to receive additional prices on security cameras. He said he hopes the BID could avoid having to seek bids if it uses money it received from the BID-sponsored farmers market to pay for the cameras.