Sheriff's Office brings new program to Falls

Pictured are the participants in the 2021 Building Bridges Program at the Packard Court Community Center.

Niagara County Sheriff Michael Filicetti is bringing another community policing initiative to the Falls.

Along with Falls Police Superintendent John Faso and members of the city's county Legislature delegation, Filicetti and members of his office kicked off the summer 2021 Niagara County Building Bridges Program on Monday. The program looks to foster relationships between inner-city youth in the Falls and members of law enforcement in social settings, rather than police related interactions.

“I really enjoy this program and interacting with our youth in a way that has them view our officers as their neighbors, not some faceless police force that shows up only when there is trouble,” Filicetti said. “Our social interactions hopefully make these young folks comfortable with law enforcement and show we are all part of one big community.”

Current Fourth District County Legislator Owen Steed (D-C) said 40 children between the ages of 8 and 12 will visit the Maid of the Mist and Cave of the Winds, participate in a fishing exposition with the New York State Environmental Conservation Police, go ice skating with members of a Division I hockey team and visit the Aquarium of Niagara, among other activities scheduled for days in July and August.

“As I have talked with many of our participants over the years, they admitted they were wary of police before the program,” Steed said.  “But as they got to know our deputies, their view has become entirely positive. That is why this type of community outreach into our neighborhoods is so important.”

Filicetti said partnering with Falls police, and other local sponsors, will be critical to the program’s success.

“Mayor (Robert) Restaino and Chief Faso have been great partners and supporters of the program and share our vision to build links between law enforcement and the community,” Filicetti said. “I also want to thank the Packard Court Community Center and its General Manager, Samika Sullivan, as well as the Niagara Falls Housing Authority, for allowing us to use their facility. And of course, special thanks to our business sponsors who create great experiences for the kids.”

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