Police Advisory Commission reviews input from public

Fri, 07/29/2022 - 3:45pm

The Police Advisory Commission asked the public for feedback and the public delivered. Complaints, comments, tales of iniquity, and suggestions were forthcoming. At its meeting on July 21, the members of the commission each took the reins on one area of the survey and delivered their reports.
The Police Advisory Commission has had seven meetings in the past year, its first since being resurrected by the town. And while they’ve been gathering information, they are
at a loss for a real mission that can direct them going forward.
“My question is, what’s the next phase?” asked member Caroline Collins. “It’s important that going forward we have a mission.”
“I agree,” said member Molly O’Neill. “We haven’t got a good direction, but [we did get] a lot of emotional responses from the public…We don’t want to be the place where it goes to die.”
Member John Spier said we need to “combat some of the island syndrome of talking about the [problems] in the heat of the summer and forgetting about it by March.”
Chair Jim Hinthorn said that after purposely delaying creating a mission statement “after a year we should be able to craft one.”
“We need to decide what to focus on,” said member Andy Transue.
There’s no lack of possibilities. From parking, traffic, mopeds, and “people’s behavior,” the hard part is narrowing it down, especially when the town is in transition between police chiefs with a member of the Rhode Island State Police, Peter Chabot, serving on an interim basis.
Members of the commission felt that some of the ground gained last year had been lost, especially in the areas of directing traffic as vehicles come off the ferry and enforcement
of moped regulations.
Traffic and parking feedback, along with suggestions on how to improve them, were taken on by O’Neill. “Obviously, when the roads were built they were dirt, and haven’t been widened,” she said. Combined with vehicles that are larger, there’s no room for walkers, bikers, mopeds, cars and trucks to all fit. With the lack of parking, people simply park along the roads forcing pedestrians from the should into the street. “It’s new creative parking that’s become acceptable.”
O’Neill suggested having parking prohibited in the following areas: at the monument on Corn Neck Road, from the Hog Pen to the boat ramp on Ocean Avenue in New Harbor, and on Old Town Road across from Three Sisters. She also suggested specifically limiting parking in front of the Historical Society to two hours. Instead, people could be encouraged to park at Town Hall on weekends and perhaps to have a shuttle bus from the school for employees working downtown.
Another suggestion was to consistently enforce two-hour parking, handicap parking, parking in taxi stands and in spaces where the vehicle is clearly too long for the spot and extending into the roadway, with ticketing.
Hinthorn asked if there was “anything there specifically” that would merit a recommendation to the Town Council.
“There is some low-hanging fruit,” said Spier, “some easy things we could do.”
“Roughly, in my head,” said Transue, “I counted about 50 cars that could be eliminated” based on O’Neill’s suggestions. “Where are they going to go?”
“This seems to me a crazy discussion,” said Sue Hagedorn who was attending the meeting as a representative of Respect B.I. “Why are you not talking, like other places, on how to reduce [the number of] cars?” She added that while cars may have gotten bigger, there were still too many being brought to the island and the number needed to be limited. “Why bother coming here if it’s too suburban?”
“I think what we’re talking about,” said Hinthorn, is that people parking where they shouldn’t creates a safety hazard.
One suggestion put forth was to increase the parking tickets from $10 to something that would be more of a deterrent. Currently, some workers and business owners simply accept the $10 as part of “the cost of doing business.”
“It’s not very good for your business,” said O’Neill, explaining that if a store owner is taking up a spot, fewer potential customers can shop in their store.
After more discussion about parking, Town Manager Maryanne Crawford said this is just “an observation on my part. The cost of rentals escalated so much that multiple families” will rent out a home together, thus bringing more cars.
It was Caroline Collins who took on the subject of mopeds. “I think this was the number one topic,” she said. “Enforcement and safety.” From helmets to shoes, honking and speeding, there was “talk about why don’t we just enforce the rules?” Collins also said one respondent asked why couldn’t the horns be removed. Answer: state law requires them to have horns.
“The next on the top was Weldon’s Way,” said Collins. “Then there were small little categories:” dirt road signage, moped parking, reduction in the number each dealer could rent, single riders only, limiting hours of operation, speeding. “Solutions? Enforcement, enforcement, enforcement.”
There were two more unusual suggestions. One was to reduce the number of mopeds each dealer could rent and then they could earn them back by doing better training. The other was to create a loop around the island – a red-lined roadway that moped renters would need to stay on.
The town has been in negotiations to craft a new “moped agreement” but Crawford would not discuss the status of it at this time.
“It’s been the same conversation for 30 years,” said Spier. “New mopeds are safer than they used to be. Horns, speeding, and clusters are annoying, but they’re not causing as many accidents. The battle’s being fought by the town. It’s out of our purview.”