Drug-Related Crimes Prevalent In Chautauqua County

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a 14-story series on issues that will be facing local communities in 2014.

Local law enforcement officials agree that burglaries, robberies and larcenies – many of which are drug-related – have been the most prevalent crimes in 2013, and are likely to remain so in 2014.

According to Captain Robert F. Samuelson, division commander of the Jamestown Police Department, the “nexus” of drugs that exists countywide – and indeed, nationwide – is responsible for the vast majority of crimes in the city.

“It’s a never-ending problem,” said Samuelson, who illustrated his point by describing how a person stealing a car radio or GPS device is – more than likely – looking to sell it for drug money as opposed to installing it in their own car.

Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace echoed these comments, indicating that property crimes have occurred at nearly 10 times the rate of violent crimes in previous years.

“(Property crimes) have historically been our largest crime area,” Gerace said. “A large percentage of these crimes have some connection to illegal and legal substances. I don’t see this changing in the near future.”

Both Samuelson and Gerace agree that an aggressive approach to the investigation and enforcement of drugs is necessary to stymie these crimes.

“Property crimes have become challenging … to bring to successful conclusions,” said Gerace, indicating how many of them lack a victim present or witness to aid in the investigation. “Many times it takes longer for these property-crime investigations because we have to piece together physical evidence that may have been left at the scene … and many times we’re connecting numerous burglaries to a single individual or group of individuals.”

These obstacles notwithstanding, Gerace remains confident that the cooperation between local police agencies and the county has played and will play an instrumental role in solving these crimes.

FIRE DEPARTMENTS

According to the Jamestown Fire Department, the majority of emergency calls are actually not fire-related, but “EMS-related.”

Heart attacks, strokes and personal injuries are some of the most common emergencies phoned in, said Jamestown Fire Chief Sam Salemme. “If (any of these incidents) meet our ‘life-threatening’ criteria, we are called in.”

Salemme also addressed the high potential of drug overdoses, primarily due to the heroin epidemic which has taken root in both the city and county at large.

As for fire emergencies, out of 155 fires that have occurred in the city this year, 74 have been deemed structural fires, fire officials say.

“It’s been a lighter than average year for structural fires,” Salemme said.