New local law designed to protect residents in town parks

— On Nov. 25, the Cicero Town Board unanimously passed a modification to Local Law 152-4c, which deals with brining dangerous instruments into a town park. Although this issue did result in lively debate by some of the residents present, I strongly support the board’s decision. Much of the concern by some of the residents was the wording and definition of “dangerous instruments capable of causing physical harm.” I would like to explain the purpose of this amendment and how the police department intends on enforcing this local law. I believe that there are some misconceptions on its intent and perceived abuse.

Let’s start by looking at Section 265.00 of the New York State Penal Law. The penal law in context is predominantly a reactive set of laws where an act must occur before it can be enforced. An example is Section 265.01, criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, a class A misdemeanor. Subsection 2 of this statute states that a person is guilty of this section if “he possesses any other dangerous or deadly instrument with the intent to use the same unlawfully against another.” The term, dangerous instrument, is defined very broadly and inherently includes any item that is readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury. As one can imagine, this includes everything from a knife to a full soda can to a motor vehicle. Again, the problem with this statute is that it is reactive in that it requires someone to show intent to use this specific item to injure someone.

The new local law amendment provides law enforcement with a proactive approach to better ensure that our parks remain safe for our residents. Although this local law has an enforcement provision, the intent of the law is to proactively address situations before a serious injury or situation occurs. Law enforcement is enabled with a great deal of discretion in the handling of many situations. This discretion allows police officers to effectively use all the tools they have to not only make arrests but to resolve problems and de-escalate situations before they become violent. The overall intent to this local law is to remove dangerous items from the park when there is reason to believe that they could be used to possibly injure someone based on exigent circumstances. This falls short of the “intent” clause in the penal law as we do not have to show ones mindset or an outright threat. An example I can give is a call we respond to in our parks during group events. A person becomes loud and abusive to the coaches and/or referees. If that person should legally possess an instrument which could cause physical harm, the police officer has the discretion to have the item removed from the park if he believes that the item could be used as a weapon. This does not require an arrest but is a means to effectively minimize risk of a situation from getting worse. It is important that an arrest is always an option when someone may not want to voluntarily comply, leaving the officer with no other recourse to ensure the safety of others. As you can see, certain items such as firearms, air guns, BB guns and paintball guns are not allowed in any town park. Anyone in possession of these items will be asked to remove these items from the park (if legally possessed) immediately.

I applaud the Cicero Town Board and the Cicero Parks and Recreation committee for their foresight and support of this local law amendment.

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