CORNWALL, N.Y. – The Town of Cornwall and the Village of Cornwall-on-Hudson are two distinct localities. They have separate zip codes, separate taxation, and separate police departments.
Our readers wanted to know why the two police precincts, one in the Town and one in the Village, are necessary when they’re so close to each other. The answer doesn’t lie in their necessity, but in their history.
“I’d think that [Cornwall-on-Hudson] has had its own police force since the 1800′s when it was established,” said Jeanne Mahoney, the village clerk of Cornwall-on-Hudson.
“When the village was incorporated in 1884, we soon after had a Constable…he was not called the police chief and we did not have a police force,” said Colette C. Fulton, the village historian.
The Town of Cornwall historian, Maryanne O’Dell, said she would research the origins of both precincts and will have more information next week.
Prior to an act put forth by the Colonial Assembly in 1764, Cornwall was a part of Goshen, according to Lewis Beach’s 1873 novel, Cornwall. After the act’s implementation, Goshen was divided into two precincts: Goshen and Cornwall, the latter of which contained what we know today as Cornwall-on-Hudson, Highlands, Blooming-Grove, Monroe, and parts of Chester and Hamptonburgh.
Under the “Act for dividing the Counties of this State into Towns,” passed on Mar. 7, 1778, Cornwall became “New Cornwall,” according to Beach’s novel.
In the next century, Cornwall and its surrounding localities would continue to switch boundaries, but Cornwall and Cornwall-on-Hudson would remain indignantly separate.
In Aug. 4, 1921, the Cornwall Press, then the town’s paper, Creswell Maclaughlin, editor and general manager, wrote an editorial entitled “Greater Cornwall.”
“A house that is divided against itself cannot stand and a town that is divided against itself cannot stand…Cornwall Landing, Cornwall-on-Hudson, Canterbury, Firthcliffe, Orr’s Mills, Storm King Heights, and Mountainville represent excellent, but scattered materials. Together they constitute the town of Cornwall, but they are not Cornwall, because they have no common unity of purpose, no definite scheme of cooperation.”
A legislation proposed by Sen. Caleb H. Baums of Cornwall went before the Supreme Court in Feb. 1923 that would consolidate the towns of Firthcliffe and Canterbury with the Village of Cornwall (Cornwall-on-Hudson) to create “Greater Cornwall.”
The annexation was ratified by the Supreme Court in December of that same year, but was recalled again in Apr. 1928.
At the time, Cornwall was 128,000 acres or 200 square miles.
According to the 2010 United States Census, modern-day Cornwall-on-Hudson is only two square miles, while the Town of Cornwall is about twenty-eight square miles.
With these statistics in mind, it may seem superfluous to have two police stations. However, the Village of Cornwall-on-Hudson has insisted on remaining apart from the Town of Cornwall throughout history up through the administrative review conducted by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services in Nov. 2009.
The fifty-nine page report, compiled by Denise E. O’Donnell, Commissioner of the Division of Criminal Justice Services [DCJS], and John Bilich, Deputy Commissioner of the Office of Public Safety, details the Cornwall Village Police Department’s activity.
The report’s executive summary seems to agree with our reader’s sentiment that two police stations is too many.
“While we respect the village’s desire to keep its police department, we feel that the village would realize substantial savings through full consolidation with another police department or dissolution, with little or no loss in law enforcement services.”
The report goes on to offer a number of alternate options, “assuming that full consolidation is not possible and dissolution is not palatable to village residents at this time.”
The only reason that we have two police departments is because the village insists on remaining a separate entity from the town.
This may be attributed to the long-standing history of Cornwall-on-Hudson’s refusal of any form of annexation, as described in the timeline below.
The Village of Cornwall-on-Hudson Police Department currently employs fourteen officers, including Chief of Police Steven Dixon, or seven officers per square mile. The Town of Cornwall Police Department employs twenty, or .7 officers per square mile.
NeighborhoodScout, which includes both Cornwall and Cornwall-on-Hudson in their statistics, states that there are approximately twenty crimes per square mile. This figure is reasonably low compared to New York’s average of 47 crimes per square mile, or even the national average of 39.3.
As the the DCJS stated, and history contends, the Village would only benefit from its police department’s dissolution. The evidence suggests that the Village of Cornwall-on-Hudson insists on remaining apart from its counterpart, the Town of Cornwall.
Let us know if you’re curious about anything we haven’t mentioned on this subject. Thanks so much for your contributions….keep posting ideas and voting on those posted!