JAMESTOWN, NY (WNY News Now) – Quelling the rise of violent crime in Jamestown might not be as easy as hiring additional police officers. In fact, according to one local lawmaker, the pool of qualified candidates is at an all time low.
On Monday night, several members of the public brought their concerns forward during Jamestown City Council’s Public Safety committee meeting. This followed a drive-by shooting that left one man dead, and another injured, last week.
“More guns are on the street now than I saw in my career,“ explained Councilman at Large Jeffrey Russell. “There is a plethora of weapons that these officers are getting off the street. Now imagine the number of weapons that they are missing.”
Solutions brought to the table include an enhanced police presence, through more patrols or officers walking the beat. One resident even proposed deploying a mobile police unit.
However, Councilman Russell says the department must address retention issues first.
“There’s officers coming here, they might stay four, five, six months, they get trained, and then they get called by where they came from; Cattaraugus County, Erie County, they are being called by other departments where they are originally from and they’re leaving, they’re leaving here and they’re going back to where they’re from,” said Russell. “So now we have a Civil Service list that’s currently exhausted and we still have more hiring to do, and no list to go off of.”
He says the “villinization” of police in recent years makes people not want to join the ranks, and that New York’s bail reform continues to impede police work.
“It’s the victims of these crimes that are suffering from this,“ explained Russell. “They’re being victimized, and then suspects are immediately being let out within hours, and it’s a slap in the face to people in our communities
The councilman went on to say the city does not have a police problem, but instead, a “people problem” where witnesses refuse to speak out.
“People will not step forward,“ stated Russell. “Literally you will have a witness to a homicide standing next to a victim when they’re shot and the person will not step forward and say so-and-so shot them, I saw it happen. To me that’s pathetic. Despite what the victim’s background is, they still deserve justice, anyone deserves to have justice.”
In the end, the councilman believes that no amount of money can solve the issue at hand.
“This has to be a collaborative effort,“ explained Russell. “And just throwing money at something is not going to fix the problem.”
Other options put forward by the community include more security cameras in public locations, and more diligence in city hall, like allocating more funding to help the officers already on the job.
A forum to address rising concerns and hear directly from the public has been set for Wednesday, September 14th. However, City Council President Tony Dolce has not yet released a specific time and location. More details are expected to be released in the next month.