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JULY 14 - JULY 22, 2015

Number One in Crime and Danger, Niagara Falls Residents Need Relief, and Change of Direction

By Mike Hudson

JULY 14, 2015

He tried for another type of resident. While the idea may have been well-intended -- to pay college graduates to live here, Seth Piccirillo''s program attracted only a handful. He might have done better offering stipends to “aspiring crime writers.” Because in Niagara Falls, we have all the kinds of crime they have everywhere else plus a number of local variants that can be found here alone.
Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, DBE was an English crime writer of novels, short stories, and plays, best remembered for the 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections which revolve around the investigations of Hercule Poirot, Miss Jane Marple and Tommy and Tuppence. What if we could pay a budding Agatha Christie to move here to write about the many future criminals attracted here by a host of favorable conditions established during the last few years.

After seven and one half years of Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster’s administration, the city has ratcheted upwards and assumed the top spot statewide, and top 50 status nationally, in a number of important crime categories.

In October, the popular website designated Niagara Falls as the “Most Dangerous City in New York.”

Last January,, which routinely ranks every city in America based on their crime statistics, ranked Niagara Falls the 49th most dangerous city in the USA.

The rankings are based on violent crimes per 1,000 residents based on the latest available crime statistics. ranked Niagara Falls from three to 20 times as dangerous as any other town or city in Niagara County.

IN determining its # 1 status, researchers examined five sets of data, including law enforcement officers per capita, violent crimes per capita, property crimes per capita, the number of registered sex offenders per capita and the percentage of the population enrolled in health care to rank Niagara Falls as the most dangerous.

In two of those categories, property crimes and registered sex offenders, Niagara Falls ranked highest in the state. The city was also close to the top in other categories except for the number of people enrolled in health care, where it ranked near the bottom.

The number of sexual predators, most of whom target children, has grown exponentially in Niagara Falls, since Mayor Paul Dyster took office. In 2007, the year he was sworn in, there were 82 registered sex offenders living in the city. Two years later that number jumped to 133.

By July 2010, 178 convicted and registered sex offenders were reported. Today that number has leveled off, and 164 predators are reported to be roaming the streets here.

That’s the highest number per capita – one for every 303 residents., which found Niagara Falls to be in the top 50 nationally as far as crime is concerned, wrote, “With a crime rate of 70 per one thousand residents, Niagara Falls has one of the highest crime rates in America compared to all communities of all sizes - from the smallest towns to the very largest cities,” the report stated. “One's chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime here is one in 14. Within New York… 100 percent of the communities have a lower crime rate than Niagara Falls. In fact, after researching dangerous places to live, NeighborhoodScout found Niagara Falls to be one of the top 100 most dangerous cities in the U.S.A.”

Comparing a city's crime rate with those of similarly sized communities, NeighborhoodScout found that with a population of 49,468, Niagara Falls has a combined rate of violent and property crime that is very high compared to other places of similar population size.

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster entered into a consent decree with the New York State Attorney General in 2010 that dictated a monitoring of the police to ensure policies intended to inhibit chances of arrests made based on racial components and a number of strictures in the conduct of police here toward suspects.

Some officers have privately complained that this has hamstrung their efforts at keeping up with the criminal element here and has discouraged enterprise police work.

Dyster entered the consent order – which brought a police monitoring consultant to review a rewrite of police policies – with some important monitoring provisions – based on 30 citizen complaints against the police alleging that officers in the department were biased against black people.

In addition Mayor Dyster has made considerable efforts to keep the city’s population above 50,000 since a–dip below that figure would result in the loss of millions of dollars in federal aid.

To attract population he has pushed a series of affordable housing initiatives that will boost the population by making it easier and more affordable for welfare recipients to relocate from New York City, Buffalo and other locales with higher rents.

The ease of getting on Medicaid in Niagara County – same day service versus a 30 day wait in other communities, the low rents and the convenient access to social services, parole and other government services have aided the Dyster administration in attracting those seeking public benefits and low rents to relocate here.

While the city continues to dip in population, it is now estimated to be 49,468 by the US Census -  parole boards and welfare offices continue to locate people here to try to hold the numbers steady.

In the past days, police have had to deal with the assault and attempted rape of a 67-year-old woman by a man who left his welfare card at the scene of the crime (see related story) and a heavy drinker at one of our public parks who bit off a part of another fellow drinker’s finger (see related story).

There is possibly a serial killer at large on the streets, dismembering bodies and leaving the pieces for police to find at various locations. Loretta Gates and Terri Lynn Bills each met their gruesome ends in this fashion, leaving police baffled and editorial writers cautioning readers on what to say about the matter in Facebook posts.

The city’s Director of Community Development Seth Piccirillo made headlines awhile back by launching a program that actually paid “recent college graduates” to come to Niagara Falls and live for a couple of years. The program met with idling results since the Niagara Falls job market is so poor.

Meantime the series of affordable housing projects supported by the mayor with large tax incentives, such as South Junior, Housing Visions, Walnut Avenue Homes, Hope VI, and others meant to lure out of town public subsidy recipients -  may help bring the population back up to over 50,000, if the working population, which has increasingly abandoned the city, does move out faster than the crime rate rises.





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