Please click the link below to subscribe to a FREE PDF version of each print edition of the Niagara Reporter
Niagara Falls City Councilman Kenny Tompkins responded to Mayor Paul Dyster’s comments regarding the Pine Avenue press conference on April 23 and ensuing proposal for “Safe Shopping Days.” The councilman also offered viable solutions for a more long-term police presence.
“It’s interesting that it took a press conference for the mayor to react to residents growing concerns about crime in this city,” said Tompkins. “He might call it ‘political grandstanding’, but to the people who live and work here, this a major issue that needs to be addressed on a more permanent basis.”
Tompkins stated Dyster’s proposal for “Safe Shopping Days” has some merits but doesn’t fully address the need for more resources. “We don’t need to add a few people for a few hours a few days a week,” he said. “Deterring crime requires more boots on the ground. We have some of the most dedicated police officers anywhere, and it’s the city’s job to make sure they have the right resources and support to perform at their fullest.”
While Tompkins acknowledged any plan is going to require more funding, a serious concern for the cash-strapped city, he noted there are solutions that can redirect officers to problem areas with less cost than adding more people to the force.
“First, we have police officers in positions that can be filled with civilians, allowing us to re-assign those officers to the field,” Tompkins said. “There are two officers assigned to the city jail, along with a supervisor. In the past, we’ve had civilian jail employees fill those roles. There is also a police officer assigned to the desk to take reports. Wouldn’t we be better served if these officers were assigned to patrol the streets?”
Tompkins also proposed creating a parking division with meter monitors who could write tickets. “Our police force shouldn’t have to spend time cracking down on parking violations, when their talents could be used to fight more serious crimes,” he said. “A parking division would possibly pay for itself and create a revenue stream, as there would be a more concentrated effort on issuing tickets to violators.”
The bigger issue of where to find money for these proposed civilian positions is one Tompkins said will take some creativity. He highlighted some opportunities. “Code enforcement could be self-sustainable if we were to rewrite our city’s laws and go to a fine system for violations rather than go through housing court,” he noted. “That’s just one avenue we can explore.”
Tompkins reiterated he has full confidence in the NFPD and these proposals are opportunities to increase the number of officers on the street. “We need to make our public safety, especially a strong police presence in the community, a priority,” he said. “This has reached a critical level and now is the time to move on meaningful changes before conditions further deteriorate.”