By Mike Hudson;
The wave of violent crime currently sweeping over the city of Niagara Falls is something Mayor Paul Dyster doesn’t like to talk about.
Why would he? In 2010, when he bent over for then state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and entered into a consent decree that would cost city taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars and make rank and file police officers here leery about pulling over a car filled with gang bangers unless it could be verified as stolen, he showed plainly what side he was on.
Dyster sold city cops down the river when he entered into a consent order with the state based on 30 citizen complaints against the police – which were never made public – alleging that officers in the department are biased against black people.
One source who saw the complaints told the Niagara Falls Reporter that they run the gamut from use of unnecessary force to one where a woman complained that the children of a neighbor who happens to be a police officer have repeatedly kicked a football into her yard.
Many of the excessive force complaints, police sources said, came from habitual criminals who claimed the police were too rough and abusive on them.
But Dyster was satisfied he had “cleaned up” Niagara Falls’ finest and moved on to appearing at Hard Rock Cafe concerts, building cricket fields and other more pressing concerns.
And what has been the result?
On May 13, An online argument apparently led to windows being shot out at a South Avenue home in broad daylight, city police said.
The homeowner told police that she had been involved in an argument with another woman on Facebook and that afterward the woman started sending her threatening messages, including threats to get her boyfriend and “shoot up” the victim’s house.
Shortly after noon, the victim told police that she heard a vehicle outside her home, then heard three small “pops” before noticing that the front windows of her home had been damaged. She told police that her infant son was nearby at the time, but was not injured.
Just this past Tuesday night, the NFPD on the scene in the 2400 block of McKenna Avenue for a car that was shot up in a drive by. Earlier in the day, cops responded to 1611 Pine Ave. for an armed robbery. The suspect pointed a gun at the clerk and grabbed a pack cigs then ran. He was described as tall black male wearing a red shirt and black jeans and was last seen running north on 17th Street.
Really? Pull out a gun for a pack of cigarettes?
The day before a victim was robbed at knifepoint by two masked men at the Valero gas station on 19th and Ferry.
On May 10, officers were involved in a foot chase at Highland and Centre avenues after a report of a subject with a gun. They took the suspect into custody in front of 1015 Centre Ave. The suspect had ditched the gun during the chase. The day before, the NFPD was called to the scene of a gang fight in the 1800 block of Niagara Avenue, with reports of people waving guns and shots fired.
On May 5, a security guard at Seneca Niagara Casino went into cardiac arrest and died early Saturday after subduing a man who had reportedly assaulted a female patron inside the casino’s Stir nightclub.
Niagara Falls police said the suspect tried to flee the area after punching the woman in the throat shortly before 3 a.m., but he was caught by Thomas Dardes, who was working security.
Dardes wrestled with the man briefly. After the suspect was detained, Dardes was out-of-breath and looked pale, casino employees told police. He went to a room to lie down and then went into cardiac arrest, according to police.
He was pronounced dead a short time later at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.
Since the days of Stefano Magaddino, Niagara Falls has been known as a lawless place, but this new wave of crime has become terrifying for many residents here.
“There are a few individuals in Niagara Falls who have been involved in 10, 11 shootings. Sometimes they’re on the receiving end of it, but often they’re shooting,” said Craig Rivera, a Niagara University criminal justice professor involved in a study of gun violence here. “The frequency with which these types of events occur in their lives is alarming…”
The FBI has officially labeled the city as the most violent in New York State, echoing previous assessments by websites such as MyLife, Neighborhood Scout, City Data and Roadsnacks. By some estimates, and despite it’s small size, it has been ranked as the 44th most dangerous place in the entire United States.
With a crime rate of 70 per one thousand residents, Niagara Falls has one of the highest crime rates in America compared to all communities of all sizes – from the smallest towns to the very largest cities,” the Neighborhood Scout report stated. “One’s chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime here is one in 14.”
To add insult to injury, Mayor Dyster has rolled out the red carpet for registered sex offenders from all over the country here. As of Tuesday, there were 165 living in the city, well up from the 70 that called Niagara Falls home when he first became mayor.
During his long tenure in office, Dyster has never mentioned violent street crime as a problem in Niagara Falls. Instead he has pointed to the lack of fishing piers and canoe launches along the Niagara River, the need for a skateboard park at Hyde Park and other nonsensical complaints.
The current opioid epidemic now gripping the city, combined with a resurgence of violent, organized street gangs here, render such willful ignorance dangerous.
Dyster clearly thought the police were the problem in Niagara Falls. And that was bad news for those who live here.