JAMESTOWN – The Jamestown City Council held a work session Monday night and during the meeting Jamestown Police Chief and Public Safety Director Harry Snellings spent time going deeper into the city’s 2017 crime rate report, which he first reported on during the council’s Jan. 22 work session.
Snellings said a recent analysis on the crime statistics that was printed in the Jamestown Post-Journal over the weekend gave some skewed and/or misleading information that could lead to confusion in the community. That analysis was entitled “Making Sense Of Jamestown Crime Statistics” and was contributed by city resident Michael Laurin, who ran for city council at large last November but failed to win election.
Laurin was critical of Snellings’ Jan. 22 report to the full council, in which he said that Part 1 Index Crimes in the city were at a 25-year low in 2017. Specifically, Laurin said that reporting solely on part 1 Index Crimes is a very simplistic and incomplete representation of crime in Jamestown.
Chief Snellings clarified Monday night some of the details about his January presentation.
“What I said, almost verbatim, was that that was a snapshot of what is going on here,” Snelling said, adding that he also provided more information to the city council in addition to the 2017 Part 1 Index Crime document. “The other document that I provided to the public safety committee that night was the 2017 year-in-review GIVE briefing, and I also emailed it to the rest of the council members that night. And one of the things that is covered in this, again, is the Part 1 crime index comparisons, a detail of calls for service by week, and we provided maps that showed the concentration of incidents within our city.”
Snellings also stated in his initial Jan. 22 report to the council that the JPD’s full 2017 Annual Report, which would be taking a deeper dive at the numbers, would be finished in February and posted on the city website.
Laurin also said that the city has an average of 2 officers for every 1,000 residents, which is below the state average of 3 officers per 1,000. Chief Snellings said that the International Association of Chiefs of Police doesn’t feel the ratio is an accurate indicator of law enforcement service.
“I guess the key point I’ll make with that and one of the key things with the article, and I agree with the IACP, they clearly state that ratios such as officer per thousand population are totally inappropriate as a basis staffing decision. I agree with that because every community is unique and every community is different. We face different issues and to try to staff your police department solely on population is just wrong and I think it’s ineffective.”
Another ratio Laurin offered that Snellings felt was misleading was that Jamestown had 46 sworn officers, and that if all 46 of those officers responded to one of the 30,747 incidents reported, they would have individually responded to 669 incidents in 2016.
Snelllings clarified this by saying that the city police department actually has 60 officers on the force, with two more expected to be added soon. He also said that a number of the incidents that are counted are self-initiated by officers as part of their duties.
“Our officers are extremely busy. You’re not going to hear me say that they’re not, but another agency here in Chautauqua County, based on his analysis and to give you some comparison here, is that the city of Dunkirk has 37 officers, 27 assigned to patrol, and based on their call for service numbers for 2016 they’re officers responded to 960 incidents per officer.”
Chief Snellings did say that although he doesn’t put a lot of emphasis on the ratio, he also believes the police department could use more officers and has requested additional officers in each year’s budget submissions but due to financial constraints the mayor and city council have been unable to accommodate those requests.