By Rick Pfeiffer firstname.lastname@example.org
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Niagara County Sheriff Jim Voutour says he’s been studying crime trends here and he likes what he sees.
“I’ve looked at the five-year trend since I started as sheriff,” he explained. “(Crime has) steadily declined and those decreases are across the board.”
However, a review of 2013 crime stats offers a mixed bag of results. While crime rates in the county decreased by double digits, there are a couple of troublesome categories.
Overall, Niagara County saw a 13 1/2 percent reduction in reported violent and property crimes in 2013 compared to 2012. There were significant reductions in burglaries, for example, but a large spike in robberies.
When it comes to crime statistics, Undersheriff Mike Filicetti said, law enforcement agencies sometimes have to take “the good with the bad.”
“Statewide and nationally, the trend in violent crime has been up in small percentages,” he said. “And we’re no exception.”
From 2012 to 2013, the number of violent crimes countywide increased to 61 from 52. Virtually all of that increase came in the number of robberies, which spiked from five in 2012 to 22 in 2013.
The targets of those robberies ranged from banks and gas stations to residences.
“We try to be proactive (in addressing spike in robberies),” Filicetti said. “(We do that) by reassigning resources to the hot spots we identify. You try to look for the prime targets (for robberies) and work with other agencies as well as redeploy your resources.”
In a recent example of that strategy, where a pair of armed bandits were on a robbery spree in Niagara and northern Erie counties, the sheriff’s office worked with other local police agencies and State Police to beef up patrols in business districts.
“We had deputies watching the traffic corridors (where the robbers were working),” Voutour said. “I told them, ‘You may not catch (the robbers) walking out of a store, but you may get them as they drive away.’ “
It was a sound strategy. Two prime suspects in the Niagara County robberies are behind bars now after they were collared on a traffic stop by Cheektowaga police.
“(The increased number of robberies in 2013) is a spike we’re aware of,” Filicetti said, “and we’re dealing with it.”
There was some good news in the violent crime numbers for 2013. Countywide, aggravated assaults were down 16 percent and rapes were down 20 percent.
In the area of property crimes the stats also showed positive trends. Property crimes decreased by more than 15 percent.
That overall decline was led by more than a 23 percent decrease in burglary complaints. Filicetti said much of the reduction is a result of fewer residential break-ins.
The undersheriff said that using intelligence generated by both patrol deputies and criminal investigators, “We can sometimes connect the areas (where burglaries are occurring) and the suspects.”
Filicetti said investigators were able to connect a pair of suspects in a Newfane area burglary spree recently, After the suspects were arrested, burglary complaints there decreased.
The same approach is credited in a 14 percent reduction in larcenies countywide in 2013.
“A lot of the larcenies were car break-ins,” Filicetti said. “We used our intelligence mapping to pinpoint where the larcenies were and we increased patrols. We also tried to educate people to lock their cars and keep their valuables out of sight.”
The only deviation in the decrease in property crime came in motor vehicle theft. That saw a 40 percent increase in 2013, to 45 from 32 in 2012.
“(That crime) goes in waves and it often depends on who’s incarcerated,” Filicetti said. “When certain people are out of jail, the number of (car) thefts tends to increase.”
Sheriff’s office stats also showed that the number of arrests in the county remained steady from 2012 to 2013.
Voutour and Filicetti said they hope to see continued downward trends in crime in 2014.
“Our field intelligence people will tell us, through mapping, where (crime) is going on and we’ll address it,” Filicetti said.