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NOV 11- NOV 19, 2014

Niagara Falls a ‘Most Dangerous’ City?
Police Chief Here Disputes Conclusions

By Mike Hudson

November 11, 2014

Niagara Falls Police Chief Bryan DalPorto

While it is true law enforcement in Niagara Falls faces some significant challenges, to suggest that it is the most dangerous city in New York State or the 53rd mostdangerous in the entire nation is absurd, said city police Supt. Bryan DalPorto.

“The short answer is that we don’t agree with those assessments. That said, we’re not turning a blind eye to the fact that there is a serious crime problem here inNiagara Falls,” DalPorto told the Niagara Falls Reporter.

Last December, the website ranked the Cataract City as the 53rd most dangerous city in America, based on the FBI’s 2012 Uniform Crime Report. Thestudy showed that the likelihood of becoming a crime victim in Niagara Falls was more than double the national average.

The study was based on the incidence of seven particular crimes as reported to the FBI, ranging in seriousness from murder to shoplifting.

Another website,, seemed to back up the findings last month, when it released a report of its own that concluded that Niagara Falls was the most dangerouscity in New York State. The study was prepared using the same FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics as the earlier study, but added in another weighted factor– the number of registered sex offenders living in the city.

As with the study, the report made allowances for one area in which Niagara Falls excels: the number of police officers per capita.

Currently, 155 sworn officers serve and protect a population of just below 50,000, meaning that there is around one officer for every 320 people. Nationally, mostmunicipalities make do with one officer for every 500 to 1,000 citizens.

But DalPorto pointed out that, in many ways, Niagara Falls presents a unique set of circumstances because it is a worldwide tourist destination. We’ve got a population of 50,000, but depending on the season, the number of tourists in town can expand that number significantly,” he said.

Additionally, with more than half of all city residents collecting some form of public assistance, the added weight put on property crimes, in some cases stealing food, casts the city in a bad light. Simply put, a person is more likely to steal something if they don’t have the money to buy it.

“We have zero tolerance for any kind of crime, period,” DalPorto said. “But a lot of what they’re considering doesn’t constitute dangerous crime, violent crime.”

Niagara Falls Police headquarters on Main St.


Furthermore, he said, the FBI Uniform Crime Report on which the studies are based on is two years old, and a disclaimer printed on the first page of the report states that the data should not be used for comparative studies such as the ones and performed, DalPorto said.

In reality, the crime rate in Niagara Falls went down by 5 percent in 2013 and is expected to decrease by 6 percent this year, he added.

The thorny problem of registered sex offenders is one that DalPorto said he is particularly concerned with.

“The sex offender issue is a battle we’ve been fighting,” he said. “A number of the sex offenders here are from Niagara Falls, committed their crimes here, and that’s our responsibility to deal with that. But a lot of them are being brought in from elsewhere, because we have cheap housing or whatever, and I have a big problem with that.”

Rank and file police officers have been telling the Reporter for more than a year that a consent decree entered into between the city and the state Attorney General’s office has made it difficult for them to do their jobs properly. The consent decree, in which the city basically admitted that the police department had racist leanings that affected officer’s behavior in the field, has made some cops fearful of disciplinary action for being too aggressive in their fight against crime here.

DalPorto was circumspect about the impact the decree has had on his department’s efforts.

“I really can’t discuss any specifics because we’re under a court order,” he said. “But certainly it places additional responsibilities on the officers.”

The city’s political leadership has stated time and again that the crime problem in Niagara Falls isn’t any worse than any other urban area. Both the consent decree and the city’s open door policy toward the warehousing of registered sex offenders here amounted to policy decisions made by the administration of Mayor Paul Dyster.

Still, DalPorto said, the situation is improving.

“I think we’ve made great strides. We’ve increased the number of officers but, more importantly I think, we’ve increased the number of uniformed officers on the street. When you’ve got guys out there in plain clothes it doesn’t always have the same impact, perception wise.”

Additionally, the department has instituted a program in which officers park their cruisers to launch foot patrols in some of the city’s most crime ridden neighborhoods.

“I think when people actually see uniformed officers walking the streets it has a definite deterrent effect,” he said.

Perception. Is Niagara Falls really more dangerous than Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse or New York City? Probably not but the perception is there, based primarily on the high level of property crimes and the disproportionate number of registered sex offenders who call our city home.

The property crime rate goes hand in hand with a largely uneducated and poverty stricken population that often turns to drugs and alcohol to escape the reality of a miserable existence. Public housing projects in particular fuel this sort of lifestyle, and are where the lion’s share of the city’s crime problem originates.

As for the registered sex offenders, there seems to be little political will at City Hall to stand up and challenge the state Parole Board’s targeting of Niagara Falls as a dumping ground for human garbage collected elsewhere in New York. Until there is, the number of sex offenders, along with other recently paroled criminals, will continue to grow, and the city will continue to make the “most dangerous” lists for years to come.







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