Dunkirk Police Department accepting weapons

The city of Dunkirk Police Department will take your unwanted weapons if you are a city resident. That was the word from Chief David Ortolano during a recent meeting of Common Council’s Public Safety Committee.

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Stacy Szukala chairs the committee and has been inquiring about a weapons buy-back program. She said it might work better at a county level.

“One of the issues … being that we are smaller communities, it’s too hard to do a program like that in a small community that we’re going to be giving money for people to turn guns in,” Ortolano began. “Let’s say we get them from Stockton, Brocton, Pomfret, Fredonia, Silver Creek, why, first off, should we be putting our funds out there for that?”

Ortolano said more than 60 percent of weapons turned in during these programs are unusable and added Fredonia Police Chief Brad Meyers agreed that a countywide program would be better. Ortolano said he had an issue with a no-questions-asked policy concerning turned-in weapons.

“We would have no recourse if we came up with a weapon that was used in a crime,” he explained.

“My thoughts were if it could be done at a countywide level I think it would much better benefit all areas rather than having a flood of people come here turning in weapons. Where do we get the money for it? Probably 50 to 60 percent of them aren’t even going to be city residents.”

Ortolano said city residents who wish to turn in unwanted weapons can call the station.

“We’ll be more than glad to come pick it up,” he added. “We’ll give a receipt for it and we have a very well-written policy on what we do with weapons that are voluntarily turned in to us. If anyone wants to voluntarily turn in a weapon to us I have no issue with that, we will take it from them.”

Szukala asked fire chief and county legislator Keith Ahlstrom if he would take the issue to the county legislature.

“It’s kind of hard to say no,” he replied with a laugh.

“Yes it is,” Szukala acknowledged.

Ahlstrom asked Ortolano how the program might work. Ortolano said it would run like the drug dropoff program and he would have an officer present.

Ahlstrom said he would present it to the county legislature’s public safety committee.

After the meeting the police chief provided more information.

“If anyone has a weapon that they would like to voluntarily turn in they can call the communications desk at 366-2266 and we will send an officer to retrieve the weapon,” he said. “Once we have the weapon we will enter the make, model and serial number into the NCIC database to see if it’s stolen or has been used in a commission of a crime. After the check is completed we will dispose of the weapon according to established policy and procedure.

“We don’t take in very many weapons on a voluntary turn in, but I think this would especially work for senior citizens who have a weapon in their home that they wish to turn in.”

Railroad and school safety issues came next.

Szukala said she received a lengthy letter from a Fourth Ward resident about train horns blowing in the city. Ortolano said stopping the daytime horns is something the railroad would not agree to.

“I would not support that from a public safety standpoint and I don’t think the railroad would even want to hear that,” Ortolano added.

Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak said if you buy near railroad tracks you have to expect noise.

Ortolano said police department members are spending the Easter recess going through the Dunkirk City School District buildings to familiarize officers with the entrances and layouts of the facilities in the event they are needed for an incident.

“Looking at it from a tactical issue … what we would need to do to get into these buildings,” he explained. “If we have any issues, whether it be small or large, we do have a plan and procedure. We’ve been in all these buildings.”

Both Ortolano and Ahlstrom said their departments have plans to make sure personnel can get where they need to in the city during the July 4 and Memorial Day events.

Send comments to gsnyder@observertoday.com