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Schenectady County had highest crime rate in state in '16

Schenectady County had highest crime rate in state in '16

Police officials cite moves in right direction
Schenectady County had highest crime rate in state in '16
A Schenectady police officer stretches crime scene tape in front of Chubby's Pizza on Crane Street in August 2016.
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER

SCHENECTADY — Schenectady County's crime rate for 2016 was the highest of all New York counties, according to new state numbers.

The county recorded 4,665 "index crimes" — ranging from murder to larceny — last year, according to a report from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. Those numbers break out to 693 violent crimes and 3,972 so-called property crimes.

That amounts to 3,038 total crimes per 100,000 people in the county, which has a total population of around 154,000. Albany County's rate of 2,812 per 100,000 residents was the fifth-highest in the state. Other counties in the top five were Niagara, New York and Erie counties, according to the report.

Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford said Monday he intends to get a handle on the numbers when his crime analyst returns from vacation. 

"We have to really look into it a little bit closer to see what's going on there — whether the city of Schenectady is just high or the towns and villages in Schenectady County are higher than in other counties," Clifford said. "Or are the other counties doing something that we're not doing that we need to look at?

"It's definitely not something that we're proud of."

Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney, however, argued the county numbers aren't as bad as they first look. He argued that Schenectady County's small area and dense population skews the countywide number. The city of Schenectady makes up 42.4 percent of its county's population, according to population numbers. Albany makes up just under 32 percent of its county.

A better comparison, Carney said, are city-to-city numbers. Numbers, also available on the Criminal Justice Services site, show rates for the cities receiving Gun Involved Violence Elimination funding. Of 21 cities in the program, Schenectady comes in 10th, behind Niagara Falls (first), Albany (sixth) and Troy (eighth).

"It's math," Carney said of the county comparisons. "As I've said for a long time, Schenectady is the most densely populated county in the state outside of New York City."

Regardless of what numbers are looked at, Clifford said his department is watching them as they come in.

Clifford said the trend he's seen has been a reduction in crime.

According to the Criminal Justice Services report, Schenectady County's 2016 crime tally is about flat from 2011 and 2012, when the county reported 687 and 700 violent crimes, respectively. Property crimes are down nearly 900 over that time, from 4,891 in 2012.

Clifford said a report compiled by his department's crime analysis unit shows violent crime below the five-year averages for each of the first six months of this year. He credited that, in part, to a series of arrests last year targeting a local group called the Ku Gang. That helped contribute to a dip in violent crime that continued through last month, he said.

Clifford received July's numbers Tuesday and, in a month that included the city's second homicide of the year, both violent and property crimes continue to be down off the five-year average. June and July were also both down from the year's peak in May, Clifford noted. The department recognized an upswing, adjusted officers as a result and saw results, Clifford said. 

Schenectady County Sheriff Dominic Dagostino said he sees the county moving in the right direction. 

"We've focused our efforts on gang violence and gun violence, and I think we're making gains there," Dagostino said.

He said he believes law enforcement is making gains in the opioid epidemic, too, another driver of crime.

"There's still more work to be done," Dagostino said. "We'll continue to address these things and work directly with the local municipalities and making an effort to reduce those."

Breaking down numbers

New York State Index Crime Rates for 2016

Rates are calculated per 100,000 residents
Top 5
Schenectady County 3,038.6
Niagara County 2,914.6
New York 2,831.4
Erie County 2,815.0
Albany County 2,812.2

Rates are calculated per 100,000 residents
Capital Region
Schenectady County 3,038.6
Albany County 2,812.2
Rensselaer County 2,267.5
Montgomery County 2,077.8
Fulton County 2,055.6
Schoharie County 1,247.6
Saratoga County 1,242.1

2016 Index Crime Numbers for Schenectady County, compared with 2014*

2014 2016
Total: 5,092 Total: 4,665
   
Violent Total: 595 Violent Total: 693
Murder: 6 Murder: 7
Rape: 38** Rape: 79**
Robbery: 167 Robbery: 166
Aggravated Assault: 384 Aggravated Assault: 441
   
Property Total: 4,497 Property Total: 3,972
Burglary: 881 Burglary: 571
Larceny: 3,452 Larceny: 3,156
Motor Vehicle Theft: 164 Motor Vehicle Theft: 245
*Final 2015 numbers for Schenectady County are unavailable as the Schenectady Police Department continues to resolve discrepancies in its 2015 numbers.
**The definition of rape expanded in 2015 to include a wider range of sex offenses, meaning the 2016 numbers follow the wider definition, while the 2014 numbers do not.
Source: New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services
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