Tuesday, July 2, 2024

A public movement for public safety


The state legislature can sometimes be big on ideas but small on implementation.


Far too often, in an effort to right a wrong or improve something that needed improvement, the legislature goes with wholesale change, rather than taking its time with baby steps or fully investigating the impacts. This is why small business owners fret about the regulations and costs of doing business in the Empire State and school boards and county legislatures pull their hair out over unfunded mandates.


This all-or-nothing approach to governance has also had a negative impact on public safety in New York. In recent years, the state has instituted a variety of changes to criminal justice, with the primary goal being social justice reform, that have had, in many circumstances, unwelcome consequences despite being well-intentioned.    


I know that from listening to Niagara County dispatch most of my waking hours – the airwaves can be quite busy at times and I routinely hear the same names and the same crimes. That’s more than an anecdotal observation: Within Niagara County vehicle thefts are 31% higher than they were just five years ago while larcenies remain up about 19%; homicides have grown from 4 in 2019 to an average of 14 in the four years that followed; and, since 2019, there have been more than 1,400 repeat offenders booked in the county. Many criminals now feel emboldened.


Niagara County isn’t alone in that regard. If you want one of the most visceral examples, things have been so bad in the Big Apple that Governor Hochul deployed the National Guard to keep order in New York City’s subways. Yes, she brought in the Armed Forces to restore what the state government broke. It’s almost surreal.


So, what can be done?


This is where we need your help.


Last month I participated in the first meeting of the Niagara County branch of the Consortium for Safe Communities. Sheriff Filicetti brought together two dozen of us from across the county and across the spectrum to talk about public safety. Men and women from law enforcement, local government, schools, small businesses, non-profits, and places of worship – a diverse mix of left, right, and center – spoke openly, in a non-political fashion, about trends in public safety, the possible causes, and potential remedies. It was an enlightening and productive conversation.


Our branch is part of a movement being rolled-out statewide that was started by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office last fall. The purpose is to educate the masses about the issues and get them engaged. The hope is that power in numbers – from the Consortium’s members and the citizens who are their customers, congregants, and constituents – gets the legislature to make adjustments to some of the recent reforms to ensure that, in the quest for socioeconomic justice, public safety isn’t a castoff. It’s believed that if lawmakers hear from regular people, with a common voice in volume, they will act. They’ll be getting an earful, politely, from more than sheriffs, police chiefs, town justices, and public defenders – they’ll also hear from the regular citizens who worry of the crime that impacts them, their families, their homes, and their communities.


Collectively, the various counties now onboard with the Consortium have narrowed down the first foray into reforming the reforms by focusing on four items: One, adopting a Risk of Public Safety Standard (ours is the only state that does not empower judges to detain individuals when they pose a threat); two, introducing a Repeat Offender Standard (to detain individuals re-arrested while out on appearance tickets or their own recognizance); three, drafting a Clean Law (to uphold the positive intentions of bail reform while safeguarding constituents from individuals who persist in criminal activities); and, four, opposing elder parole legislation (which could be dangerous and arbitrary while re-victimizing the innocent).


To better understand these items and make your voice heard on them, visit the Consortium’s website (ourconsortiumny.com) to read about them and fill out the associated form to add your name to the growing list of concerned citizens. Better yet, write your own letter using those points with specific details about how you and your community have been and will be impacted. Mail or e-mail that letter to the heads of the senate and assembly while copying your local sheriff and state legislators on it. 


This is the first time that we’ve asked for your help and it won’t be the last. You’ll probably hear from us on a regular basis. The various branches and members of the Consortium for Safe Communities will continue meet in the coming months and years to analyze pending and existing legislation and the impact on public safety…and you.



From the 04 July 2024 Wellsville Sun and Greater Niagara Newspapers

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