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NYS AG Candidate Discusses Crime In Newburgh

WAMC, Allison Dunne

The Republican candidate for New York state attorney general stopped in Orange County Thursday. He was in Newburgh to talk with local elected officials about what is needed to cut down on the city’s crime.

John Cahill toured the Newburgh Armory Unity Center, a community center that provides athletic and educational opportunities for the area’s youth. Though Cahill, who resides in Yonkers, in Westchester County, says he has been to Newburgh many times, it was his first visit since hitting the campaign trail. He says addressing crime will bolster economic development opportunities in the struggling city and elsewhere.

“I’ve been to Poughkeepsie many times already.  I’ve been now here in Orange County. I’ve been in Albany many times, Troy,” says Cahill. “All these communities, frankly, share many of the similar issues, whether it’s Yonkers, Newburgh, Kingston, Albany. They’re all struggling cities and communities trying to change, transform their economy, but they’re all faced with this underlying issues of crime. And until they get the crime issue resolved, it’s going to be very hard to attract the investment and the capital to help, really, these communities grow.”

Republican Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus joined Cahill at the Armory Unity Center.

“The City of Newburgh needs a lot of help right now,” says Neuhaus. “We were ranked the ninth most dangerous place in America a year ago. We believe that that ranking is probably going to be even worse this year, by the FBI.”

He adds:

“We need help, not only from Orange County, not only from the city, but we need help on the state level,” Neuhaus says.

“How?” asks Dunne.

“We need boots on the ground, people prosecuting crimes,” adds Neuhaus. “We need state police, which are here now, partnering with the sheriff’s department having people on patrol. An attorney general can make this a priority.”

Cahill, who served as chief of staff to former Governor George Pataki, criticizes Democratic state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for not doing enough to help local governments combat crime.

“So the idea of having the attorney general play a proactive role in working with these local communities and helping them with their burden of proving their cases in the criminal courts, that was a major issue that I discussed with the county executive this morning,” Cahill says. “They need to know that there are going to be state resources to complement the resources that they have here in the local community.”

A campaign spokesman for Schneiderman says, in an e-mailed statement, quote, “We’re happy to compare Eric’s exceptional record rooting out crime with any candidate, especially John Cahill – who has no prosecutorial experience and spent the past seven years working as an unregistered lobbyist for the oil and gas industry.”

Cahill says the heroin epidemic goes hand in hand with crime.

“And, the current attorney general believes well the answer is just to give out Narcan, etcetera.  I’m all for helping people who have overdosed, but we really have to get at the underlying cause of this heroin epidemic, and that’s because it’s being overprescribed opiates, we have much looser, we need tighter controls on both doctors and pharmacies and we need to get at the street-level crime, at selling opium,” says Cahill. “And we need an attorney general, frankly, who’s going to be more proactive in fighting for tougher laws in Albany with respect to the sale and, particularly the sale of heroin. We don’t have that.”

Narcan, or Naloxone, is administered to counteract the effects of opiate overdose. Cahill says heroin is more potent than years ago, and state law needs to reflect this and other aspects.

“And our laws haven’t been updated for the penalties to meet the severity of selling these drugs, which are literally killing so many of our community.  So that’s one example,” says Cahill. “We had an opportunity in Albany to get that passed this year.  We didn’t have an attorney general fighting for that. He was focused solely on if it was substance and treatment which is certainly part of it, but we also have to get to the underlying cause selling and that’s the criminal, people who are selling and distributing heroin on the streets of our communities.”

Schneiderman’s campaign spokesman responded to the criticism saying, quote, “Attorney General Schneiderman has broken up 17 major drug rings, recovered $1.3 million from drug dealers, confiscated more than 2,500 grams of heroin and made 345 felony arrests of drug kingpins statewide.”

Republican State Senator Bill Larkin says Cahill wants to know what the attorney general should do with money that could help Newburgh. Larkin has an idea.

“How do we bring the money that we took in as a result of raids, drugs, or something else,” asks Larkin. “Put it back into communities so they can take programs that work, get kids away from it, like here. He thought this was a gem.”

The gem he refers to is the Newburgh Armory Unity Center, where kids who are part of a summer camp for at-risk and underserved youth were playing basketball. Larkin adds:

“What are you doing to help fight crime and disorder in our communities?” Larkin inquires. “I’m looking for an attorney general who’s got that bug.”

All agreed that to combat crime, local, state, and federal resources need to come together.

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