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Crime dominates discussion at council meeting

Nicole A. Hawley
Staff writer
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Posted 10/28/22

Local business owners and community members voiced their outrage over crime in the city, including the owner of Bill’s Variety who was just held up at gunpoint at his store Saturday evening.

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Crime dominates discussion at council meeting

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ROME — Local business owners and community members voiced their outrage over crime in the city, including the owner of Bill’s Variety who was just held up at gunpoint at his store Saturday evening, during the public comment session of Wednesday’s Common Council meeting at City Hall.

Dennis Perfetti, whose son, Ian, owns Bill’s Variety and the adjacent Express Liquors store in the 500 block of West Thomas Street, voiced his concerns last month to the council about criminal activity getting worse in the city with recent break-ins and robberies of local businesses, including his son’s.

As a result of that meeting, First Ward Councilor John M. Sparace, chair of the council’s Public Safety Committee, and Third Ward Councilor Kimberly Rogers, arranged a public meeting on Oct. 20 for business owners and residents — a meeting both Perfetti and his son attended. Two days later, at about 8:30 p.m., two Black men wearing all black and in ski masks entered the store, pointed a “hunting style” rifle at Perfetti, according to the father and police reports, and demanded money.

Shootout illustrates issues, say victims

Ian Perfetti said during Wednesday’s meeting that he fired his legal, licensed pistol at the suspects once after two shots were fired by the suspects barely missed his head. The suspects fled the store and are still at large.

“I told everyone at that meeting and everyone that was here that night that this was going to go down because I watch patterns,” said Dennis Perfetti in reference to Saturday’s attempted robbery. “That night (of the meeting) we had a patrol car outside my store for 20 minutes — maybe a little longer. And then they were gone. Guess when we see them again? Saturday night at 8:30 when someone attempts to kill me and my son, and steal my money —it’s disgusting.”

Ian Perfetti, said he attended the meeting on Oct. 20 when he said after watching “countless footage” on his security cameras, feared another robbery at his business was inevitable. His nightmare became reality on Oct. 22.

“Two (men) shot at me two times, almost hitting me in the head. I fire once, and I had my legally-obtained firearm taken away from me,” Ian Perfetti said. “Thankfully I had the gun with me to prevent them from coming back into the store. I’ve contacted city officials and the mayor — countless calls and none returned. There’s no communication with our elected mayor.”

“Everybody in this state wants to hide behind Bail Reform — that you can’t put them in jail... This is five times in one year and twice with a gun,” said Dennis Perfetti. “When you talk to the police department they say, ‘We can’t have anybody sitting out there,’ but they can sit between Rite Aid and check for speeding tickets. But you can’t put cars where people’s lives are in danger. Make sense?”

Administration faulted

While Perfetti said he was contacted by councilors Sparace and Rogers following the attempted robbery, as well as Fourth Ward Councilor Ramona L. Smith, he said he didn’t hear from Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo or Police Chief David Collins.

Perfetti asked, “What are we waiting for, when does it stop and what do we need to do as a community? This starts at the top of the administration (which is) not capable to run city government. What happens the next time this happens?”

Andrew Savoie, a former resident and graduate of the former Rome Civilian Police Academy said that Rome “used to be a safe city.” He placed blame on the mayor and Chief Collins, stating that he did not pass the Civil Service exam for chief.

Collins had previously passed the test for assistant police chief and was serving as deputy chief in Rome when he was appointed to the top spot upon the retirement of former Chief Kevin C. Beach. Collins was appointed on a provisional basis and is scheduled to take the next available civil service test for chief — expected for March 2023.

Business owner: More needs to be done

Rocco Luiere, of Copper City Sales & Distribution, Inc., of Henderson, Nevada, owner of the parcel at 218 S. James St., said he’s majority owner of a company that does business all over the country and decided to open a branch in his hometown of Rome, where he still has relatives residing, including a city councilor. But he said he recently considered having his business leave Rome due to increased criminal activity, including a break-in at his property.

Luiere said the council and administration need to start working together with business owners and residents to combat the issues before businesses start leaving or refuse to do business in Rome.

“I strongly suggest all parties work together — the council, mayor, community watch groups — install as many cameras on businesses and homes as possible,” he said. “Without participation to include the council and mayor, I fear no real solutions will be obtained. I ask the council and mayor to participate in group discussions so perhaps some good comments and solutions can come out if it so maybe we can stop or at least minimize what’s happening in the city. Companies like ours won’t come into the city under these conditions.”

Brian Brockway, of 504 Williams St., said he operates a program that provides book bags and school supplies to more than 800 needy children in the city, and receives assistance from several local businesses to make his efforts possible. He said with the issues of crime in the city, he fears the community will lose those businesses.

“The house near me, there’s multiple ODs, heroin use and cocaine — I need to know what can be done to protect me, my children, the local police department and businesses,” said Brockway. “I love it here, but I can’t stand being here anymore. I’m here to show my support for Dennis and Ian, and my friends on the police department. Will it take a few dead bodies for someone to do something?”

Mark Syfert, of 422 W. Embargo St., said he’s been a city resident for 35 years and has never “feared for his life” as he does today.

“I’ve never seen this type of violence in the city,” said Syfert. “I see drug dealings constantly on the sidewalk by the four corners. Little packages change hands — it’s on my cameras. Now I own a 12-gauge shotgun and bought 50 slugs for protection in my house. I may start sleeping with it — that’s how scared I am.”

Ian Perfetti faulted Izzo for not addressing the issue with constituents.

“She refuses to set up (any meetings) because she doesn’t want to face everybody. The mayor won’t do anything if it doesn’t pertain to her agenda. Here her uncle was the original owner of Bill’s Variety,” he said, “and I brought the place with the intention to bring it back. I had a ribbon cutting and the mayor never showed up. This city needs someone who’s going to take things that are going on in this city seriously.”

During councilor reports, Sparace said councilors hear the community’s concerns and plans to continue forming a committee addressing public safety issues in the city following the Oct. 20 meeting.

“We hear you — there is a problem and we all need to work together,” said Sparace. “There’s a lot of emotions right now, but we need to work with the administration and council...Crime is not only an issue for this city, but all over. We’re bringing some things to our next meeting and we’re planning on setting it for Nov. 16. We want to figure out some logistics. We are going to try to help everyone out, but know we live here too. We get it, and it’s frustrating for us too. Instead of slinging mud we need to work together.”

Rogers said all councilors are concerned with what’s going on in the city, and that Bail Reform may be a contributing factor to the problem, but it’s “not the only factor.” She thanked the speakers for voicing their concerns at the council meeting, describing it as a “first step” toward progress.

“Criminals today seem comfortable and sometimes don’t even bother to wear a mask — there’s a general disrespect for the community, neighbors and people in general,” said Rogers. “I’m not sure how this all came about, but it’s really prevalent in society and it will really take a city to get behind a serious, strong initiative and make these things work.”

In response to remarks made during the council meeting, Izzo said Thursday that the city is “committed” to providing a safe, secure community for all residents.

As for the shots fired/attempted robbery at Bill’s Variety, the mayor said there were also three other incidents that occurred near the store recently, and all resulted in arrests prior to the incident that happened Saturday night.

“Our officers and detectives have done a great job staying on top of these cases,” said Izzo. “Unfortunately, the last person arrested was 17-years-old, being a subject to ‘raise the age’ — he cannot be tried or held as an adult and his case goes to Family Court. He was released on his own recognizance and was immediately back on the street, and that is what we’re dealing with.”

She said, “Like I said before, this is the result of Bail Reform, and many of these crimes that used to be felonies, many have been reclassified as misdemeanors and they can only be given an appearance ticket. I’m not sure it’s really an uptick in crime, just everyone paying more attention because of what’s happening across the country.”

“If you look at the crime statistics, we’re holding our own — we’re around what we usually see,” Izzo said. “There is some difference now because these perpetrators understand the law has changed, and I think they’ve become a little more brazen. But the police are on top of each and every case.”

The mayor noted that shortly after the incident at Bill’s Variety Saturday, there was another call of shots fired on Healy Avenue, but officers “tracked it down quickly by canvassing the neighborhood,” and confirmed it was fireworks.

Asked about her and her administration’s involvement, Izzo said, “The real experts in city government for public safety are the commissioner of public safety, police department, fire department and for some incidents the DPW (Department of Public Works) depending on what’ happening. In the face of crimes, police chiefs are the leaders in that area, and the public safety commissioner, and we meet daily — not just once — and not just Monday through Friday. I’m aware of what’s happening and what our officers and detectives are up to — following up on leads and crimes.”

Izzo added that many police officers are also frustrated because they are unable to hold perpetrators in jail.

Izzo continued, “I don’t want our citizens to think we’re being soft on crime. We’re doing what we can to protect our city. We’re doing a good job from the administrative standpoint staying on top of this.”

“Chief Collins is more than qualified and doing a great job as chief,” said Izzo. “He’s just getting started. The new unit he created is being successful — we just had the attorney general’s gun buy-back yield almost 70 weapons, and we thank the attorney general for coming back to do that. We continue to try and take guns off the streets in Rome.”

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