Niagara Gazette

December 17, 2012

HIGGS: Cheers to Niagara Falls' police chief

By Norma Higgs
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Well it’s official. My one year reprieve is over. Niagara Falls Police Superintendent John Chella will retire on Dec. 28.

Part of the perks of being part of a block club is our close relationship with Chief Chella over the years. He has been responsive to our neighborhood needs and has put up with me since former Mayor Vince Anello was smart enough to put him in charge and Mayor Paul Dyster recognized his abilities and kept him there.

Since I have the public space I want to let him know he has not worked in vain. His legacy is one of the best as he has recognized the need to communicate with the residents and he has urged his officers to do likewise. He organized a Community Service Unit in his department and has been willing to include his officers in many of our activities especially where young people may be present.

He has opened the door to technology and has been patient with us and very careful to educate us about new police tactics and shares his statistics so we are aware of what types of crimes are being committed practically at our doorsteps.

Neighborhoods are our business — not our only business, as we do have a life, but I cannot urge citizens enough to form some kind of neighborhood watch to keep the authorities informed of what is happening.

In today’s tough economy, hard times happen to good people as well as the bad ones and sometimes they resort to less than legal means of survival. We have enough problems with the percentage of bad ones who continue to add lines to their rap sheets as soon as they are released from the past ones. And, unfortunately new problems arrive on a daily basis from jails and other communities who do not have the housing and willing landlords to take their money.

Am I even suggesting we are becoming a dumping ground? Yes I am! Fussy landlords are telling me it is getting harder to find good tenants. That is one of the reasons I support the student loan assistance initiative the Community Development Department is working on. Come on — what’s wrong with helping a different element of our society? We are “paying” many more people to live here. Just ask your Social Services Department to give you an idea of their “new business.” It sure is a lot more than 20 and it sure costs us a lot more that $7,000 over two years.

The cost is not only in dollars, but property damage to housing which eventually results in vacant housing when the owner no longer cares about making the repairs and simply abandons it for demolition which we ultimately pay for in some manner. I am certainly not saying that everyone on assistance is a tenant risk, but landlord experience has indicated this is a part of their current problem. The end result is another block with another eyesore and another reason to keep a good tenant or homeowner from moving down the street.

Since I am not being positive today, let’s talk about car break-ins. If you purchase a GPS system as a gift for someone this year, please put a big note on it. How about something like this? Hi! I Have Come Into Your Life To Help You Find Your Way. Please Do Not Leave Me In The Car Alone! Also, watch yourself about leaving personal items and gifts visible in your car and at least keep it LOCKED. Can you believe all those police reports in the newspapers about “unlocked” vehicle thefts? Purses, cash, GPS, and other assorted hot items which become even hotter. Take that extra few minutes when you come home to bring in everything that is visible and then lock your car. Hotel owners — take note and include a written piece of advice in your rooms to remind your guests to do likewise. I have seen this in many of the places I have visited so it has become sort of the norm and people just need to be reminded we live in a different world today and it pays to be more careful.

Many of our problems are really social problems that are not in the job description of Law Enforcement — absentee and/or irresponsible parents, lack of or limited job training for our youth (not everyone is college material), lack of meaningful employment, etc. These things need to be addressed by different government and private agencies, education and religious institutions, the media, including social media who can do a lot to reform the thought process among the youth.

Elected officials need to address city ordinances and provide funding to revitalize neighborhoods rather than selling them off during In Rem sales to undesirable out of town purchasers who have no interest in the rest of us. Nonprofit agencies need to take a good look at the big picture. A city is only as good as the people who live there.

In closing I feel I speak for all the good, hardworking, honest citizens of our city in wishing Superintendent John Chella a future filled with good health, happiness and a nice quiet retirement with family, friends, travel and of course his lovely wife who has already retired from a long teaching career and is waiting for him to join her.

“Happy trails to you ...”

And special prayers to the family of our dear departed friend Arthur B. Ray. “A.B.” — we miss you already!

Norma Higgs serves with the Niagara Beautification Commission and Niagara Falls Block Club Council.

Norma Higgs serves with the Niagara Beautification Commission and Niagara Falls Block Club Council.