By Norma Higgs
Niagara Gazette — Last week we learned about some of the partnerships the Niagara Falls Block Club Council has become involved in with local government and how it all assists crime prevention in our community.
It has been a long, hard battle over the almost 17 years we have been in this together but we as citizens fully realize we cannot control our population and the social problems that come with it. At our annual retreat held in January we invited these partners to pass along any and all new programs and/or ideas that have been developed which can help us learn how we as citizens can better help in the reduction and prevention of crime in our neighborhoods.
Our most vital partner has been the Niagara Falls Police Department and our new police superintendent was in his 26th day in this position at the time of the retreat. He was, however, a highly recognized member of the NFPD for 15 years. Chief Bryan DalPorto with the assistance of Field Intelligence Officer Karl Brusino and Field Intelligence Analyst Matt Robbins put together a Power-Point presentation outlining among other things the manpower restructuring during this time period. To make the most effective use of manpower he put more officers on the street and even on the beat. One day in mid-January, I actually saw a police officer “walking the beat” on Pine Avenue. (yea — my comment).
The RAC unit is now in marked police cars on patrol; the Traffic Division does prisoner transfers; when desk officers are not needed during building closure they are on the road during afternoon and midnight shifts. There will still be an officer in City Hall but when closed, this officer is on patrol. Manning for shifts will be evaluated on a daily basis. The chief says the ideal number is eight plus. During the summer, Operation Impact funds will be used in the downtown tourist area and business districts. He stated everything is COMPSTAT driven – crime trends are researched and if burglaries are up in certain areas for instance, manpower is diverted there. This unit meets biweekly to discuss violent crime, property crime and how to allocate resources to address these crimes. Officer presence will be increased in business districts. Burglaries and larceny from vehicles continue to be the highest statistic. Lock your empty car ladies and gentlemen. It does help.
Captain Nick Paonessa who also runs the Juvenile Division is now the leader of Community Relations with Community Relations Officers Mike Corcoran and Dave Cudahy who will be working with retail establishments in the community.
The NFPD Citizens Engagement Initiative is a newly created resident driven initiative that focuses on improving the quality of life of all residents while strengthening community-police relations. This replaces the former Weed and See Program. Some of the goals will be to increase community interaction and improve residents’ participation by connecting them to neighborhood police substations that will provide community based resources and to engage youth in police mentorship program to improve relations between them.
Social media has become a priority with everyone and the police department is no exception. Our cities finest will be on Facebook along with an improved and easier to navigate website in the works and Twitter and YouTube in future development. Hey- not everything can be accomplished in 26 days.
A gun buy-back program will be held Feb. 23 from noon to 5 p.m. at the Niagara Falls Fire Department Fire Hall at 11th Street and Ontario Avenue. The Niagara Falls Block Club Council will be a co-sponsor along with MAD DADS. Some say this won’t get illegal guns off the street — Chief says a legal gun could easily become an illegal one. I think of Newtown, where the gun was purchased legally by mother, and used against her and young children and their teachers at local school by her son. Learn how to protect your gun against these circumstances.
DalPorto says no questions asked — non-working guns will be worth $10 and working long guns (rifles/shotguns) $50. Handguns bring $75 and assault rifles $100. The Block Club Council donated trigger locks which will be given away to legal gun owners. Old unwanted ammunition (live rounds only) will be accepted. Citizens can sign up for the gun safety training course to be presented by the NFPD Firearms Training Unit. Antique or specialty guns worth more than amounts stated above will be held and help will be offered to facilitate the sale to a legitimate collector for the valued price. Legislator Owen Steed was instrumental in obtaining the funding for the program.
The Niagara Falls Police Department have partnered with the U.S. Border Patrol which will allow the city to tap into resources they can share. They will also support each other via community relations and equipment.
We all agreed his first 26 days have been well spent and we feel we can look forward to a continued and better than ever Police Department.
It looks like this topic will continue another week thanks to the extra efforts of the Police Department. Next time we will hear form our District Attorney, the First Assistant U. S. Attorney and the Niagara County Probation Department.
This will be followed by remarks made by our new state Sen. George Maziarz who also was serving his 26th day as our representative. Hope all this is interesting as it certainly was to us. Remember an educated citizen is a better citizen.Norma Higgs serves with the Niagara Beautification Commission and Niagara Falls Block Club Council.