By Ken Cosentino
Yet another person was shot and killed in the heart of the Niagara Falls tourist district this past Saturday. Once again, Mayor Robert Restaino is mum.
Mayor Restaino has yet to meet a camera that he didn’t like (with the exception of WGRZ photojournalist Ben Read’s lens). Although Restaino loves to show his face at ribbon cuttings and grand openings, he’s been dead silent when it comes to the rise in violent crimes during his time in office.
Mayor Restaino touts himself as a mayor who is focused on building the tourism industry. His campaign focus has been 100% on his Centennial Park project and 0% on the violence and bloodshed that is terrorizing our hometown. A real leader would address the issues and face them head on, not shy away from them. His silence is an admission of guilt.
A quick Google search of “most violent crimes per capita New York” results in Niagara Falls being listed as #1. Several of the links on the first page of Google list Buffalo as the number one city for general crime in New York State, with Niagara Falls as second (still #1 for most violent crimes). Not all websites use the same metric for determining their ranks, but almost all travel blogs and websites on the first few pages of Google list Niagara Falls in the top 5 for “most dangerous cities to live in or visit in New York State.”
For a city with fewer than 50,000 residents, this number is alarming. How can we expect to attract more development and create real jobs when our city is a war zone? On top of that, our quality of life has been seriously jeopardized.
When tourists from all around the country and globe search Google for “Niagara Falls, NY” they are met with the murder rate and dangerous risks that come with visiting our city. Imagine how many tourists we are losing because they were deterred by this statistic!
We all know that tourists come here to visit the falls and then most of them will head to Buffalo or Canada, instead of staying in our city for longer than a day or two. Because of this, tourist dollars barely trickle into our community, and our locally-owned businesses take the hit.
I was critical of Mayor Paul Dyster’s performance as an elected official, but at least he had the wherewithal to hold press conferences when our city was being plagued by armed robberies.
Mayor Dyster was far from perfect, but the city was much safer during his time in office. From 2013 until Dyster’s final year in office (2019), the number of individuals killed by gun violence never surpassed 3. Statistics show that those numbers jumped to 10 people killed by gun violence during Mayor Restaino’s first term (2020) and in 2021 another 10 people were killed. In 2022, the number of people killed by gun violence was 8, still quadruple the average during Dyster’s term.
So far this year there have been 6 people killed by gun violence in the City of Niagara Falls (not including the man who police justifiably shot and killed during a shootout earlier this month).
The number of shooting victims had already begun to increase from 20 in 2018 to 34 in 2019, before skyrocketing to 47 in 2020. The number climbed again in 2021 with 51 shooting victims. In 2022, the number decreased slightly to 44. The data has not yet been updated as to how many people have been shot so far this month in the City of Niagara Falls, but as of July the number of shooting victims in 2023 was 17.
Unfortunately, Mayor Robert Restaino has done nothing to address this issue. In fact, when WGRZ’s Ben Read asked Restaino to grade the city, Restaino gave it an A rating (while emergency sirens blared in the background). No wonder Mayor Restaino pushed Read’s camera lens and ended the interview early. He was embarrassed and ashamed, as he should be.
Deep down, Mayor Restaino knows that the city should not get an A rating. He also knows that the spike in violent crime reflects his poor performance as an elected official.
If we re-elect Mayor Restaino, we can expect this trend in violent crime and shooting victims to continue. His past performance and negligence on the matter speaks volumes.
To the families of the victims, their loved ones weren’t just a statistic. When some of these families gathered outside of Restaino’s house two years ago in an attempt to speak with him, the SWAT team was called to disperse the “mob.” That should tell you everything you need to know about how Mayor Restaino views the people of Niagara Falls.
Here are some of the headlines from this year. Some people wrongfully believe that only those who are involved with criminal activities are subject to being gunned down. The truth is that innocent people are sometimes caught in the cross-fire. What if this were your loved one who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? God forbid.