New York resident Peretz Sontag had been missing since March 14 after making references to harming himself before he left home that day. The body of the 50-year-old father of seven was found inside his car in an upstate New York park in a ravine. Sontag was found last week by a hiker in Harriman State Park, the same area where at least fifty volunteers had desperately searched for him, until New York State Parks Police ticketed many of them for trespassing and illegally parked vehicles. More than 30 such tickets were issued to volunteers by two officers of the Park Police.
During the 10 days that Sontag was missing the family issued a $30,000 reward. Many searching believed they would find Sontag in Harriman State Park, as it was his last-known location. When his cellphone was pinged by police the location included the park. The park, however, only had two Park Police officers. When the organizers of the volunteers search efforts reached out to the Park Police to assist with the search, they refused. The Park Police claimed they could not take part in the search as they "did not have enough resources." Of course, the Park Police had the resources to issue tickets.
Volunteers of United Search and Rescue stated that on numerous occasions, and numerous days, they attempted to search the exact area where Sontag was found, but they were turned away by the Park Police. “It’s dispiriting to say the least, and outrageous to be frank, that a law enforcement agency would be ticketing volunteers instead of giving them a helping hand,” stated community spokesman Yossi Gestetner.
Park Police defended the tickets, claiming that "volunteers were instructed to abide by all park rules and to call police if special assistance was needed."
Town Councilman Daniel Friedman, a local politician, was disturbed by these tickets. He stated that any volunteer ticketed while participating in the search should directly email him at FriedmanD@Ramapo-ny.gov and he will appeal to the New York State Police to have all these tickets dismissed.
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