By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette — Two days before Thanksgiving, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer came to the Falls bearing a unique gift.
At a Third Street news conference, Schumer announced the Falls will be one of only eight cities, nationwide, to be partnered with the new U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Diagnostic Center. The center aims to bring the "most advanced crime fighting techniques and expertise" to the cities that are linked it.
"The aim is to curb crime and spur development," Schumer said. "And it doesn't cost the city of Niagara Falls or county of Niagara a dime."
The center will bring federal experts into the city to partner with Falls police to "implement an evidence-based approach to criminal justice, juvenile justice and victim services issues."
"It will bring the most advanced crime fighting resources to the city," Schumer said. "There will be access to all sorts of federal resources, once (the federal experts and local police) come up with the best plan to address crime here."
Falls Police Superintendent John Chella said the federal reinforcements come at a critical time.
"2012 has not been a good year for Niagara Falls as far as crime," Chella said. "Our numbers (of crimes) are up in both violent and property crime. I welcome the opportunity for the federal government to give us a new set of eyes and a new perspective to drive numbers down."
Schumer noted that the federal crime experts will be looking at data that Falls police already collect as part of their CompStat program. The Diagnostic Center will also connect the local statistics into larger national data bases to aid in the analysis.
Some of the new approaches that are employed here could mirror efforts undertaken in places like New York City, which has greater resources to undertake evidence-based solutions to crime issues. Schumer pointed out that using these techniques, New York City has become the safest of the nation's 25 largest cities.
Schumer said he experts the Office of Justice Programs experts will be on the ground in the Falls in the next several months. Working with city cops, the experts will analyze the types of crimes that most plague the city and the factors that contribute to these crimes.
Falls police and the experts will then develop a "Response Strategy" for dealing with those crimes, in part, by identifying other federal crime fighting programs that can support the strategy.
"They will tell the local police department there is money here and there is money there to help you address (crime)," the senator said. "(People) want to feel safe and this program should help get us on that way. They will give Chief Chella all the resources he needs to keep the citizens here safe."
Schumer said he fought to have the Falls be designated as one of the eight target communities as part of a larger goal of "bringing more tourism and development to this landmark city."
"We reached out to Senator Schumer, we told him about our public safety needs," Mayor Paul Dyster said. "This is going to help the Niagara Falls Police Department execute data base solutions to crime."