It is no joke to be a city court judge in Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is one of the poorest and, according to several online rankings, utilizing crime statistics compiled by the FBI, one of the most crime riddled cities in America.
Drugs are endemic; the police rightly or wrongly are under the state attorney general's consent order - for alleged racism.
Shootings are commonplace. Drug deals go down on the streets in plain sight.
Blight and vacancies and condemnation of housing, and code enforcement bear down on hapless owners and fleeing landlords.
Petit crimes of larceny and villainy, the endless revolving door between jail and court and freedom and drugs and jail.
The prostitute, the shoplifter, the human monsters who victimize the elderly frightening them home as hideouts in a city they cannot escape.
Domestic violence, and sex offenders bloated beyond all other cities as expressed as a percentage of the local populace, and the queasy feeling that it brings.
The importation from other cities of the chronically dependent - and mentally ill - based of the decision of the present administration to seek developer driven affordable housing - and combined with the brutal sledgehammer beating down prosperity for the working fools - is New York's very own program of enabling lifetime welfare and offering gilt-edged Medicaid health insurance benefits superior to the health benefits of the taxpayers who pay for them - provided to the hapless and worthless - the spongers and incompetent - - attracted here as if by a magnet - by the policies of short term profits paid with long term pain - to move into the glut of affordable housing in a city reeking with affordable houses.
To move out of a borderline home - almost obsolescent - in a borderline neighborhood once made of substance and solid oak, into a shiny new cardboard taxpayer rip off of a housing project and at night - without a glance at the landlord.
And house, vacated, left in shambles - ask any landlord - it may be abandoned. Then demolition. And the city sues who to recover the cost?
And the borderline neighborhood, from 1920 to the present - has never been so close to crossing over the border as it is now.
Onward - to build - more, more taxpayer funded, developer riches - affordable housing.
And all the problems - from housing violations to abandonment to despair to crime and the new flocks of loafers - all will descend sooner or later on city court.
The laggards who pinch. The driver who drinks. The reckless gambler who steals. The man who embezzles. The guy who pledged his home or fought with his wife, or threatened his child and beat her. The juvenile who shattered his future. The man who ran from the police or hid in the bushes when the alarm rang.
The home invader who would have been a burglar with 10 more years of his life - if no one was home. The crud who breaks into a house for $100 worth of copper scrap - $10,000 to replace.
The falsely accused. The guilty sinners - repentant and not. And the repentant because they were caught.
Ready to go again, and manufacture one more victim to add to the list and record for some internet site - analyze and rate us - your city, you're the judge, and the total victims' list keeps increasing in a city always shrinking - in people - except those people who will come again and again to City Court.
And then - let us not forget them - there are the victims - mute, forlorn - with no one to speak for them. Confused and uncomprehending - with no one to explain.
Or cruel and bloodthirsty demanding two eyes for an eye.
And saddest of all - the victim who cannot get it back, the irreconcilable, the irretrievable, the inconsolable. There is no punishment ever meted that can bring back the hopelessly lost.
Vengeance is dead. There is only justice.
And it lies in the balance.
The constant flow of victims - who equal in number the accused.
And the mundane - always the routine, everyday - mundane: All the petty crimes and stupid days that afflict the poor and the ill fated, for the poor and the ill fated is what Niagara Falls consists of.
The uneducated and the poor who caught up in a trifle - even an unpaid traffic ticket that leads to their absence in court, or failure to pay, and cruel America - a bench warrant and incarceration for a week or a day. And nowhere to find the money to pay.
Caught up in the system - look - for aid - the harried public defender who can only budget a minute- and the restless and the too hungry ward of a client - who frets and paces in his cell and out in handcuffs - and a moment then back again for 30 days.
And the poor man who cannot make bail and the man who makes bail, all alike and setting the bail - how much do you set?
A city court judge sees a parade of human misery - of torment and suffering and bitter gall.
And the vast sea of faces indistinguishable from one to the next - one day or the next. Unwashed, unclean, ill-dressed, always shabby and ill-kempt and malodorous - right from the bench you can smell them - they fill up the courtroom every day and wait for their names to be called.
And some of their faces are lined with regret and others with a strange sort of puzzlement. But it's not what you think. They ponder can they get out to the street in time and back for a smoke before their name is called from the bench.
And you must tell them all apart and with patience and dignity listen to their sad sobbing grief and their damn execrable lies and their endless protestations of innocence - and make the right call. To never be too sure and never unsure - and listen always, listen with wisdom and compassion - and dispense sternness and mercy - and pass judgment. Always being right and knowing you are wrong, often wrong.
Such is the fate of the judge who sits upon the bench at City Court.
What can a judge do to ensure justice, and foster mercy, and inspire wisdom and improve such hand that has been dealt Niagara Falls?
|The courtroom is empty - but when court is in session it is packed with miscreants and sad ill- equiped people caught up in the system.
Niagara Falls ranks among the poorest cities in America.
According to the US Census Bureau, from 2009-2013, 24.9 percent of its people lived below the threshold of poverty, less than $12,000 per year for a single person and about $4,000 more per year for a spouse and each child.
A family of four lives in poverty with an income below $23,850.
Among cities with the highest poverty rates are Detroit, Cleveland, Rochester, Buffalo, Brownsville, Valdosta, Ga., McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas, Albany, Ga., Cleveland, Dayton, Hartford, Cincinnati, Birmingham, Miami, Milwaukee and Niagara Falls.