- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—Niagara County officials heard about the need to create a second deputy position at the Niagara Falls Social Services office during Monday’s community safety and security committee and administration committee.

Currently, one deputy is stationed at the Niagara Falls location and another at the Lockport office.

Undersheriff Michael Filicetti said a survey found one deputy was not enough to handle a building, responding to incidents on multiple floors and the parking lot.

“There is a real concern for safety, not only for the people who work there, but the deputy,” Filicetti said.

Legislator Richard Andres, R-North Tonawanda, asked if the second position could be made part-time.

Filicetti said no, as there are more than double the amount of people that come to the Niagara Falls location than Lockport one. He called it a “disaster waiting to happen.”

The building does not have any type of magnetometer, which is a metal detector.

At the Niagara Falls location, Filicetti said there are many times where a weapon is taken from a person, such as a pocket knife, along with warrant executions of some people that come in the building.

“It’s a busy place,” he said. “We have some concern.”

Anthony Restaino, social services commissioner, said in 2014, the Niagara Falls office has just over 84,000 client visits and Lockport had a little over 35,000.

“There are some differences between the two offices that I think raises the level of concern,” he said.

In Niagara Falls, all fair hearings take place. Restaino said a fair hearing is when a client is denied benefits or there is a child protective services report against them. Those hearings take place on Mondays and Tuesdays and could have as many as 12 to 15 people during each shift.

Monday, Restaino said there was an arrest of someone who was at a fair hearing. He said the hearings can be volatile if a person is not happy with what is decided.

Another issue is how the building is laid out. He said the area where interviews take place is separated from the rest of the building. Whereas Lockport has everything on one floor, Niagara Falls has a separation of walls that can not be removed because it is a load bearing wall.

“It’s awfully difficult for a sheriff’s deputy to monitor everything going in the building,” he said. “If something happens in the parking lot, it leaves everything inside the building open.”

Restaino said the deputies stationed in the two buildings were removed about 10 years ago, followed by the addition of private security because there were not enough incidents to justify the presence of the deputies. About three to five years ago was when the number of incidents started to pick up, so last year the deputies were re-stationed to the buildings.

Restaino said it was not until recently that there was a threat of workers being accosted by clients as they walked around the building. There can also be 12 to 14 court ordered CPS visits at any given time, which may require a deputy to be in the room while a person is visiting with a child. A deputy’s presence is required if there has been a previously volatile situation to a caseworker from the client.

In Lockport, there are only about two CPS visits a week.

Ideally, Restaino would like to see a new building where everything is on one floor. However, the hiring of a new deputy will allow for one to be stationed where they are now, and the second will be placed in the area where the interview areas are located. He said he hopes this will help deter clients from acting out if a deputy is in the area.

The position, which is funded through the social services department, will get an hourly rate of $25.36 and is effective Aug. 16.

Contact reporter Rikki Cason at 439-9222, ext. 6252.


(c)2015 the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal (Lockport, N.Y.)

Visit the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal (Lockport, N.Y.) at lockportjournal.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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