Police unveil new unit to focus on street crimes

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ROME — The Rome Police Department formally unveiled its new Street Crimes Unit to the public with a press conference on Tuesday.

The small unit will operate proactively and independently from its regular patrol duties to focus on gun and drug-related crimes in the city, according to police officials.

The SCU hit the streets in April and has already made 59 arrests, police officials said, adding the unit is comprised of a few patrolman-ranked officers and is still in the pilot stage of development, Chief David J. Collins said.

The department is in the process of reviewing the unit, determining what works and what could use some tweaking, Collins said.

“Public safety and taking positive action to maintain a high standard of response to the community we serve are a priority,” Collins said at the event held at the Justice Building, 301 N. James St.

“I believe in order to be an effective police department, public trust and confidence is essential,” Collins said. “The city of Rome, like some neighboring cities, has seen an increase in gun-related crime, and that increase is not something that I take lightly.”

Collins said Rome has seen an increase in gun and drug-related crimes, including the use of handmade ghost guns.

The SCU was put together to “show the community we’re serious about addressing these issues,” Collins stated.

The officers on the SCU will operate “autonomously and independently” from the regular Patrol Division, the chief explained. They will not respond to day-to-day criminal complaints, like shoplifting calls or domestic disputes.

Instead, the SCU will focus on investigating and tracking known drug and weapons offenders in an effort to prevent serious crimes from occurring. They will work with the Special Investigations Unit, which handles larger drug investigations in the city to crackdown on these issues.

“I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but bail reform hurt us here in New York State. It is what it is. Some of the players that we’ve arrested are right back out the next day,” explained Collins.

One example he gave was when 19-year-old Ernest H. Fancher Jr. was taken into custody on May 10 following a shots fired call on West Dominick Street. Police said Fancher was charged the day before with assault and disorderly conduct for harassing some residents in the 900 block, and then hitting a police officer.

Police said Fancher was released on May 9 due to bail reform, and then returned to West Dominick Street on May 10 and fired several shots into the air. According to police, the SCU was able to quickly respond and take Fancher into custody within 10 minutes.

Fancher’s assault case remains ongoing in Rome City Court, while his weapons case remains ongoing in Oneida County Court.

“We don’t want to be reactive. We take our role seriously. We want to get on top of this, we want to be proactive. We live in this community, we work in this community,” Chief Collins stated.

“I don’t want to be that chief that shoulda, woulda, coulda,” Collins said.

Along with Fancher, police officers also highlighted the June 15 arrest of Devin S. Apgar, 27, of Rome, who was picked up on an outstanding warrant and was found with crack cocaine, Suboxone and a 40-caliber handgun in his backpack, police stated. Apgar had previously been charged with drug possession on April 4, and is now charged with second and third-degree possession of a weapon, and fourth-degree possession of a controlled substance, police said.

On April 6, 30-year-old Andre Ferrier was stopped for a suspended license, and he was found with a loaded, 9mm ghost gun in his vehicle, police stated. Ferrier had been previously charged on Jan. 15 after a gun went off in his apartment, police said. A search of the apartment uncovered three defaced handguns, a shotgun and an AR-15 rifle, authorities stated.

Since the SCU was started in April, authorities said they have made a total of 59 arrests, including 28 charges of aggravated unlicensed operation. Authorities said they have seized two handguns, 87 grams of methamphetamine, 30 grams of cocaine, 11 grams of fentanyl and other items.

Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo said Collins and Deputy Chief Cheyenne Schoff approached her with the idea for the SCU within a week of being sworn into their positions in January. Officials said the idea was developed with input from Capt. Dominic J. Corigliano, supervisor of the Patrol Division, and Capt. Kevin M. James, supervisor of the Detective Division.

James will oversee the SCU.

“This level of violence is unacceptable in our community. We’re not going to stand for it,” Izzo said. “This is one of the safest communities in the state to live in, and we intend for it to stay that way.”

The mayor noted that the SCU will not require an increase in the department’s budget. The officers will remain in uniform and will drive standard patrol vehicles.

“We can’t just sit back any longer as a community and think that the crime will go away,” Izzo said on Tuesday. “We have to be more proactive about rooting out the criminal before the incident occurs, and that’s what this is all about.”

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