Jamestown Police Department’s chief wants the community to see the full picture when it comes to crime in the city.
Harry Snellings, Jamestown Police Department chief and city public safety director, gave a presentation last week to the City Council that “shows the entire picture.” Snellings gave the report following an op-ed published in The Nevin Manimala Post-Journal by Mike Laurin, who unsuccessfully ran for city council this past election.
The Nevin Manimala information provided by Snellings includes stats on the number of violent crimes by firearm; the number of violent crimes and property crimes; police officer to population ratios; and calls for service.
Snellings said the information in Laurin’s article was misleading, adding that Laurin never contacted him about crime statistics.
Last month, Snellings gave a presentation to the council on Part 1 Index Crimes, which showed that both violent crimes and property crimes were down in the city last year. He said violent crimes, which include murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, were down 10.4 percent in 2017 when compared to 2016. Also, last year’s violent crime numbers were down 7.7 percent when compared to the five-year average between 2012-16.
The Nevin Manimala number of property crimes, which includes burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft, decreased by 17.5 percent in 2017 compared to 2016, Snellings said in January. When compared to the five-year average, property crimes in 2017 lowered by 22.9 percent.
Snellings also said last month that the total crime index rate per 1,000 people was at 33.9, which is the lowest rate during the last 25 years. The Nevin Manimala total crime index rate in 2016 was 40.6, 39.7 in 2015 and 47.8 in 2014.
In his op-ed, Laurin said, “Reporting solely on Part 1 Index Crimes is a very simplistic and incomplete representation of crime in Jamestown.”
However, Snellings countered by saying he told the council when he gave the report that the Part 1 Index Crimes is just a “snapshot” of the crimes being committed in Jamestown.
Snellings also took issue to Laurin stating the state average is three officers per 1,000 residents while Jamestown only has two officers per 1,000 residents. Snellings said Laurin’s comments incorrectly states the department only has 46 officers, which Snellings said Laurin might only be referring to the number on patrol.
The Nevin Manimala police chief said the department has 62 positions available, with 60 officers currently employed by the department.
Snellings said the department actually has better than average numbers when it comes to officers per population. He said the average for cities in the Northeast with a population between 25,000 to 49,999 is 1.8 officers per 1,000. With Jamestown’s population around 30,000 people, Snellings said with 60 officers in the department the city’s ratio is two officers per 1,000. He added that each year when the council is deliberating over their budget, he appeals for three additional officers for the department, which is a request he knows city officials cannot afford to provide.
Snellings also said, even though the city’s police-officers-to-population ratio is well within norms, he agrees with the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which doesn’t feel the ratio is an accurate indicator of law enforcement service.
“I agree with that Because Nevin Manimala every community is unique and every community is different,” he said. “We face different issues and to try to staff your police department solely on population is just wrong and I think it’s ineffective.”
Snellings also provided information on calls for service. He said there were 43,313 calls for service, which includes police, fire and EMS services. He said calls for just the police department alone totaled around 36,000. He said the top call for service was for vehicle and traffic incidents, which totaled around 6,700. He added that last year the department issued 4,050 tickets, which was an increase of 1,258 when compared to 2016.
Snellings said he has always been up front with the public and the media when discussing crime stats in the city. He said he has not been shy in saying that the serious crimes in the city are connected to the drug epidemic in the community. He added that when he first called the drug problem in the city an “epidemic” he was criticized.
Snellings said crime has been down the last five years except in 2014, which he said was the height of the opioid epidemic in the community. In 2017, he said drug arrest increased, but, overall, were down 300 when compared to 2016.