JAMESTOWN, NY (WNY News Now) – From crime, to housing, to concerns about the growing homeless population in Jamestown, residents got the chance to speak directly with local leaders during a Wednesday night forum.
Held at First United Methodist Church, this was the first large-scale public feedback meeting held since the pandemic. Council President Tony Dolce organized the event following a fatal shooting one month ago.
“So this year, up until August 14th, that’s the most recent statistics I have, we’ve had 16 confirmed shootings. Compared to last year that was 19, that was the entire year,” says Jamestown Police Chief Tim Jackson.
One community member suggested that more money from the American Rescue Plan should be used to combat gun violence. Specifically, that $2 million of the initial $28 million should be spent to hire more police officers and invest in new programs.
“Therefore, I would hope that we would embark in only what’s necessary to assist our police department. Provide them with the equipment that they empower. They don’t have a street crimes unit, they don’t have highway patrol people actively enforcing speeding,” said Doug Champ.
Other were concerned about the department’s ability to quickly respond to calls, especially shootings.
“That would mean, at minimum, there’s three officers on the road, a supervisor, a desk officer, and a jail officer. That’s the minimum we can have on the road. The response time for a shots-fired call is everybody’s going to go. Everybody, even if they’re on a call, they’re gonna go as soon as they get there. They’re going,” assures Jackson.
Many argued that dilapidated housing, and crime, go hand in hand.
“We have condemned a lot of properties in the past couple of years. That is not something we do lightly, and it’s not something that we ever really want to do because most of the time when that happens we are potentially displacing somebody,” explained Director of Development Crystal Surdyk.
The city is working on a process known as “19a actions” which is a special proceeding to take ownership of abandoned dwellings so they can be rehabilitated.
“So right now, in process we’re working on a new nuisance ordinance update, a rental inspection ordinance, a vacant property ordinance. And those are the three top ordinances that we’re working on,” explains the director.
The rise in Jamestown’s homeless population was also among top conversations, with Mayor Eddie Sundquist addressing the issue.
“What we have seen in other cities and when I’ve talked to other mayors, they have found that when the faith leaders and the resource providers work together to create a partnership, that they were able to tackle emergency sheltering, getting resources to where they belong, getting folks off of the street,” says Sundquist.
Following the meeting, local leaders say they are going to review the feedback collected, before working to take additional action to address the issues presented.