NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - Chief Thomas Howley has been running the North Salem Police Department for over twenty years and he has overseen some big changes during that time.
"There were only two police cars when I started," he said. "Now we have six vehicles and they all have computers. We're not disrupted by electrical outages. We have 14 part-time officers out during the day, including one parking enforcement officer. We patrol the neighborhoods, the parks, the schools, the train stations and the dam."
Howley has also seen the character of the town change to some extent over the decades. "Before (Interstate) 684 was built, it was really a sleepy little upstate town. Now we see a lot more traffic. It still feels like a small town, thanks to tight zoning regulations, but a lot of commuter cars cut through North Salem to get to 684 or the train stations. And we have more wealthy people and more celebrities."
The best thing about working in North Salem, said Chief Howley, "is that the residents are cooperative law-abiding citizens. They like open space. It's a low crime area and the schools are good."
Howley himself graduated from North Salem High School in 1972. There were 84 students in his class.
His job as police chief is actually a part-time commitment. The rest of the time he teaches Physical Education at Chappaqua's Seven Bridges Middle School . He loves both jobs. "The kids have a lot of enthusiasm," he said. "They come in as kids, they leave as young adults."
He likes his police work because, "I like dealing with people on a daily basis. And I like to try to solve problems."
One of his most gratifying experiences on the job was, "helping a woman adopt a child from Russia. I was able to cut through some of the red tape and provide her with information through some resources. And I wrote a letter on her behalf."
Crime rates are low in North Salem. There is occasional mischief and, once in a while, a burglary or larceny. "People say they see us out there all the time. I think that's a deterrent."
The biggest crimes in the last 20 years were handled and solved by the State Police. "There was the murder of Elizabeth Butler in Croton Falls six years ago. That was terrible. And a couple of other murders before that. So that's three in 20 years. Then he added, "As far as I know."
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.