Fear Not, Jamestown

Jamestown residents fearing a rise in gun violence, especially after Tuesday’s gunfire exchange at a Falconer Street residence, can perhaps take comfort in new statistics proving otherwise.

According to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, violent crimes in Jamestown involving firearms are relatively low compared to other cities in New York with similar populations.

In 2013, Jamestown, with a population of 30,658, had a total of 21 violent crimes involving a firearm. Poughkeepsie, with a population of 30,778, had 85 such crimes. Newburgh, with a population of 28,571, had a staggering 109.

Indeed, 2013 wasn’t an aberration. The five-year average (from 2008-12) of such crimes in Jamestown was just 16. For Poughkeepsie and Newburgh, it was 74 and 99, respectively.

Captain Robert F. Samuelson, division commander of the Jamestown Police Department, credited these numbers to several factors, including demographic differences and the crime reporting practices of everyday citizens.

“(Crime rates) vary from city to city,” Samuelson said. “(In Jamestown), you could say it’s because of the level of police presence here. You could say it’s because of the prosecution rates we have on those apprehended. There’s several different reasons.”

A nationwide study by the Federal Bureau of Investigation identified some of the more predominant reasons as economic conditions, cultural and educational factors as well as family cohesiveness.

In Jamestown, though the number of violent, firearm-related crimes is low, the scourge of heroin and other drugs has led to an explosion of property crimes such as burglaries, larcenies and car theft.

A total of 1,140 property crimes were reported in the city in 2013. Poughkeepsie totaled only 787.

Mount Vernon, a city with nearly twice the population of Jamestown at 68,071 people, had only 296 more property crimes.

“All the issues that we have in Jamestown, whether they be property crimes or violent crimes, are all surrounding drugs,” Samuelson said.

He illustrated his point by describing how a person stealing a car radio or GPS device is more than likely trying to sell it for drug money as opposed to installing it in their own car.

“It’s a never-ending problem,” Samuelson said. “It further anchors (our need to continue) our enforcement.”

The Falconer Street home invasion reportedly involved a drug-related issue.