Niagara Gazette

Columns

February 18, 2013

HIGGS: Back to the block club retreat

Niagara Gazette — Last week the Niagara Falls Police Department dominated the article as well they should as our new Chief Bryan DalPorto had lots of changes to announce. Everyone agreed change is good and it sounds like he is moving in the right direction. More cops on the street has been a cry within the community and I loved seeing that officer walking the beat on Pine Avenue. Police presence is what it is all about. Keeps everyone on their toes.

Our District Attorney Michael Violante never disappoints and he admitted he was not initially in favor of the Judicial Diversion program — called it “another hand-holding court” but has come around 180 degrees in belief of the program and has become a partner in it. It puts the onus on the defendant to successfully complete the program.

He stated he attends the biweekly COMSTAT meetings. Offering his views on guns, he noted the huge difficulty is with the people who are shot but are not cooperating with law enforcement as the most disturbing part. It makes it harder to pursue these types which he said are often gang members involved in territorial battles. Many of the shootings are meant to injure not necessarily to kill. His comment on the proposed gun buy-back is “any gun off the street is a blessing and a help” and he is in favor of governor’s anti-gun legislation. Retail crime (shoplifting) sometimes involves people with 100-plus petty larceny crimes already on their record. No pleas are allowed in cases like these. Yeah! (my comment — everyone knows I do not like plea bargaining although I do understand why it is used). Witnesses need to come forward regardless of the type of case.

James P. Kennedy, first assistant U.S. Attorney (federal prosecutor) within the Western New York District was new to our panel this year. I met him at last year’s Crime Night Out when he substituted for U. S. Attorney William Hochul and he willingly consented to come again to this event. He admitted one-third of what they do is related to drugs and guns. The Western New York District is comprised of 17 counties and they feel they are fortunate to have talent like Sheriff James Voutour and new Niagara Falls Superintendent DalPorto as partners in this area. His office also deals with child exploitation, a problem exasperated by the Internet. They are also able to assist Niagara Falls and the FBI in cases involving corruption. This is important to economic development as it ensures a level playing field. A major difference in their powers is that they are able to lock someone up from the date of arrest under a presumption which is something the district attorney cannot do. Final remark — need witnesses — if you see something, say something.”

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