Program helps cut crime

Crime is down in Schenectady, Albany and most other jurisdictions participating in Operation IMPACT,
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Categories: Schenectady County

Crime is down in Schenectady, Albany and most other jurisdictions participating in Operation IMPACT, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Schenectady crime was down 13 percent in the first 11 months of 2007 compared to the first 11 months of 2006. Violent crime was down 14.8 percent and property crime 12.6 percent.

In Albany, crime was down 11.3 percent. Violent crime was down 7.2 percent and property crime 12.4 percent. In Troy, crime was down 3.3 percent.

Operation IMPACT — Integrated Municipal Police Anti-Crime Teams — is a state-funded program targeting the 17 highest-crime counties outside New York City. Overall, in those 17 jurisdictions, crime was down 5.4 percent. Violent crime was down 9.5 percent and property crime 4.7 percent.

Schenectady’s 13 percent crime decline was the second-best performance of the 17, behind a 14.9 percent drop in the Yonkers crime rate.

The IMPACT program combines law enforcement resources from various departments and agencies, and is focused on relatively high-crime areas such as the cities of Albany, Schenectady and Troy. Albany got $1,282,388 in IMPACT funding in the current fiscal year and Schenectady got $865,854. Statewide, funding for IMPACT went up 14 percent in 2007-08. The program was started in 2004.

DCJS Commissioner Denise O’Donnell said she expects Gov. Eliot Spitzer to support new funding for the program, despite it being a tight year for the state budget.

“The Capital Region is a real leader in implementing some of these strategies,” O’Donnell said at the annual Operation IMPACT conference in Saratoga Springs. Those police strategies, she said, include everything from better intelligence and quicker response to truancy programs, and coordination with probation and parole officers and state police.

Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney said the increasing use of surveillance cameras has been a major factor in the recent reduction in crime. Most of the 17 in the city are in the Hamilton Hill and Vale neighborhoods, he said, with three in Mont Pleasant and one downtown. Another should go up this week downtown, Carney said, and more are planned for the city. Most of the funding for the cameras came from DCJS, although private sources such as Stewart’s also contributed.

Carney said crime is down in Hamilton Hill but expressed concern about it spreading to Mont Pleasant.

Taking a longer view, Carney said, crime went up in Schenectady in the mid- to late 1980s and early 1990s, which he linked to the exodus of jobs from General Electric Co. and the arrival of crack cocaine. The massive “Operation Crackdown” in late 1993, with the assistance of state police, led to the crime rate falling for more than a decade, Carney said. But it went back up in 2005 and 2006 before falling again last year.

Schenectady Assistant Police Chief Michael Seber said the spike in 2005 and 2006 was linked to an increase in burglaries. The arrest of three drug addicts who likely committed many burglaries helped bring the numbers down, he said. So did a reduction in the number of cases where copper piping was ripped off from buildings.

Police have also started getting more cooperation from the public in solving crimes, Seber said.

Albany Police Chief James Tuffey said the regional IMPACT approach is the right one because his goal is not to push crime out to the suburbs but to eradicate it.

While most IMPACT areas reported drops in crime, there were a few exceptions. In Newburgh, for example, crime went up 13.5 percent and in Spring Valley by 12.7 percent. Crime was up 3.9 percent in Utica and 2 percent in Buffalo.

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