HAMILTON: Crime Won’t Change Until Leadership Changes in Our Community

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By: Ken Hamilton

Crime won’t change until crime-area leadership changes.  But in the meantime, business goes on as usual, and so does the crime.

As tears streamed from his face, in sadness of Jesse Richardson’s untimely death, Legislator Owen T. Steed stood among the mourners in front of Richardson’s Fast Food Deli on Highland Avenue during Richardson’s well-attended December vigil. He was a good customer of Jesse’s. 

Little remembered is that long ago, back in the days when Senator John Daly’s and community activist Michael Brundidge’s Area One Community Preservation Corporation was working hard to improve the quality of life of Highland’s residents, as VP and in charge of the corporate personnel, Richardson was once an employee of mine.  Such organizations exist no more.

That was before Richardson had the restaurant that had come to be a neighborhood staple. It was also back when we had a viable community center for the children of the area to participate in structured and supervised activities.  Now all three of those things are gone.  Three, you ask?  Yes, a community center, a local-based group that was working to improve the conditions of Highland Avenue; and thirdly gone are likely Steed’s sad tears over Richardson’s untimely death. 

Not long after Steed gave his tearful advice to the crowd about their responsibility to abate crime, gunshots rang out a stone’s-throw from where the assembly took place. And back before the days before Steed had any influence, before the days of Area One and its successors, and as far back as the 1970s, singer Roberta Flack throatily sang a sad, sad song whose lyrics went, “Business goes on as usual, the corn and the profits are high; and TV’s boom in every living room — they tell us what deodorants to buy … Business goes on as usual, except that my brother’s dead …”


Niagara County Legislator Owen Steed shedding a tear at the vigil for Jesse Richardson.


Flack sang that song as an overseas war protest; but now the names of those who have died due to the violence in the nation’s inner-cities – including Niagara Falls, and likely more so in Steed’s poverty- and educational-disadvantaged “minority-majority” Niagara County 4th Legislative District – now exceeds the 58,000-plus names that are on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC. 

But business goes on as usual; and the residents vote the same as they always have voted, and they just can’t see the connection between the democratic (small -d) input, and the (big-C) criminal output. Brundidge used to say that it was insane for residents to continue doing the same things and expecting a different output. 

But with 4th District residents voting for Steed – and doing so while on his watch the idled original Niagara Community Center and Girls Club was collapsing into itself and was torn down – it is clear that, other than sponsoring free meals for residents, no one really expected much from the largely inept legislator anyway. Not the county Republicans in the Legislature who actually like him because, as one of their officers explained to me, “… he brings nothing to the table and his vote doesn’t count.” 

As a representative in– as previously said – a minority-majority district, it was very disrespectful of the Republicans to feel that way about the legislator who is also the Niagara Falls Police Department’s community liaison. In so saying, they are also implying that. “… his constituents bring nothing to the table and they simply don’t count either.”

But before you direct any hatred at the county Republicans who seemingly don’t give a damn about you, examine the Democrats who keep supporting Steed’s empower-less candidacy, and not finding someone in the district who can bring things to the legislature; someone whose vote does count. Until those county Democrats do so, then, likewise, Steed’s district – YOU – don’t matter to them either; and they are the ones who claim that they do love you. 

The bulk of the crime that most scares Niagarans not only takes place primarily in Steed’s statistically 50.5% black/49.5% non-black, “crime-breed and crime-seeding”, 4th Legislative District, but the subsequent police chases and other consequences are in your neighborhoods – the good people of neither his nor any neighborhood just simply don’t deserve this; and it is clear, they and you certainly don’t deserve to have a politically impotent legislator representing your city. Without change, you all are so very screwed in having to continue to hear gunshots ringing out in yours and other nearby neighborhoods.

Before year’s end, it is likely that Steed will stand and cry again; and after having done nothing at all about the situation, he will advise residents on what “they” should be doing. 

After all that Steed has said and done, he’s has said far more than the little that he’s ever done. When Steed is indeed gone, what if anything will remain of the little that he’s actually done?  How will it benefit you when Year-2021 roll around and the US Census likely showing that the city’s population has dropped even more; and that the time has come to redistrict the city? Steed may become the legislator for you-so-far disinterested readers as well. And then … guess who’s coming to dinner?

In the meantime, business goes on as usual.


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