Niagara Gazette

February 13, 2013

A week after cutting $30K from NACC, council majority unveils plan to use $75K for police efforts

Staff reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — A trio of city lawmakers unveiled plans Wednesday to use contingency dollars and bed tax funds to support a new public safety initiative.

In a release issued from the city council's office, council Chairman Glenn Choolokian and fellow lawmakers Sam Fruscione and Robert Anderson Jr. announced that they intend to allocate $50,000 in council contingency funds and $25,000 in bed tax revenues to bolster community policing programs in 2013. 

The same group of lawmakers voted earlier this month to cut $30,000 in bed tax revenue originally earmarked for the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center on Pine Avenue as well as reduce the amount of city property tax revenue allocated to both the Niagara Falls Block Club Council and the Niagara Beautification Commission as part of this year's budget.

On Wednesday, members of the council majority said they are moving to direct additional city funds to the Niagara Falls Police Department as part of a plan outlined by new police Superintendent Bryan DalPorto who is looking to increase the number of officers on city streets, including those assigned to patrol cars and foot patrols.

"If our streets aren't safe, then none of us are safe," Anderson said in the statement. "We've decided that it's time to move forward with increased financial support for our police department.”

All three council members were criticized by dozens of residents and NACC users during the Feb. 4 meeting during which they voted to pull funding for the cultural center, block clubs and beautification commission. At the time, they argued that the community would be better used by re-allocating bed tax revenues from the NACC to a community policing initiative. During last year's budget deliberations, the council agreed to establish a contingency fund that allows them to oversee the dispersement of overtime funds as needed for police, code enforcement and other personnel this year. 

The council majority is expected to vote to make the transfer of funds for the policing initiative official during a meeting scheduled for Tuesday. 

Fruscione said the move will put more officers on the streets, in cars and on bicycle patrols this year.

"Our tourism district and neighborhoods are the logical places to target for new crime-fighting programming," Fruscione said. "In conversation with Chief Dalporto and our finance department, we discovered that bed tax funds can be used to support policing in the tourism district. It only makes sense that our city does all it can to make our visitors feel safe when they spend time with us." 

One of Dalporto's first initiatives since assuming command of the department this year was to assign more officers to patrol duty along main streets and in some neighborhoods.

"Officer Dalporto is creative, he's driven and he has a lot of ideas - the old blended with the new - that we fully support," Choolokian said. "There's been a good deal of talk for a long time about increasing our crime-fighting efforts, now it's being funded and we're going forward." 

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