GLENS FALLS -- Nearly half the fights, disturbances and assaults reported to police in downtown Glens Falls in 2011 were between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., according to report by city Police Chief Will Valenza.
The total number of arrests dropped from 292 in 2007 to 252 in 2011, but the number of reports in early morning hours increased from 104 in 2007 to 118 in 2011.
Valenza presented the report to the city Board of Public Safety on Wednesday as part of discussion of Mayor John “Jack” Diamond’s push to move up the required bar closing time from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m. in Glens Falls, as part of a multi-faceted response to an attack on a young man in a South Street parking lot in December.
The city Police Department also has increased late-night “quality of life” patrols on South Street through the end of March while the mayor’s office and the Police Department work with bar owners on a neighborhood safety plan.
Valenza said at the meeting that six arrests were made during the patrols this weekend — four for open-container violations and two for possession of marijuana.
Last year, 10 percent of arrests in the city were made on South Street, and 16 percent of assaults occurred there, Valenza said in his report.
“Far too many assaults, fights, DWIs and drug complaints arise from activity on South Street,” he said.
Valenza said the overall reduction in reports of unruly behavior is an indication the city’s effort to improve the quality of life downtown has been successful.
DWI arrests, likewise, have dropped from 293 in 2007 to 129 in 2011.
But the early morning hours between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. remain a problem, he said.
From 2007 to 2012, 12 city police officers were injured while dealing with a subject.
Four of the injuries occurred between midnight and 4 a.m., and three between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.
“I personally want to try to change that culture,” Diamond said at the meeting. “We want to send a message that our downtown, our South Street, is attractive to everyone.”
Board of Public Safety members said they support the mayor’s initiative.
“People I’ve talked to, everyone seems to be in favor of it,” said Richard Saunders, a board member.
Bill Collins, another board member, said cities such as Burlington, Vt., have strict limits on how many drinks a patron can be served.
“You can see a difference when you go into a community like that,” he said.
To change the closing time, the Warren County Board of Supervisors would have to recommend that the state Liquor Control Authority board consider it.
The state board would have the final say.
Glens Falls 5th Ward Supervisor William Kenny said Wednesday he will lead the mayor’s initiative to move up closing times at the county board level.
“I just think that it’s time we get off the dime and did something about it,” he said in a telephone interview.
Kenny said he will ask at the county board organization meeting on Friday that a meeting of the county Legislative and Rules Committee be scheduled to discuss it.
“I’m willing to carry the ball at the county,” he said.
Glens Falls 1st Ward Supervisor Dan Girard, a bar owner, said Wednesday he is undecided about whether bar closing times should be moved up.
“I think the dialogue’s good on it. ... I’d like to hear what has to be said on both sides,” he said in a telephone interview.
Girard, who owns Lawrence Street Tavern, said it wouldn’t affect his business either way, because he already closes earlier.
“I’m too old to stay awake that late,” he said, referring to the 4 a.m. closing time.
Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson said he supports the 2 a.m. closing time.
“I’ve never been a real fan of 4 o’clock closing times,” he said.
Diamond said he also has asked state Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, to research the possibility of introducing state legislation to give cities direct control of bar closing times.
“It truly makes sense that the city should have control of this, not the county,” Diamond said.
Valenza said moving up the closing time is just one aspect of the mayor’s initiative.
On Jan. 29, the city, in conjunction with the Council for Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse, will conduct a free voluntary training program for bar employees about how to recognize signs of intoxication and ways to prevent customers from becoming intoxicated.
The Police Department, in conjunction with the state Liquor Control Authority, will be conducting random checks of whether bar employees have required state certification in security procedures.