Public safety was just one issue discussed with over 60 people who attended a public forum held by Jamestown City Council Wednesday night.
Council President Tony Dolce stated one of his goals has been to hold these kinds of forums outside of the regular council meeting, but the Pandemic put that on hold until now.
City Director of Development Crystal Surdyk presented on neighborhood stabilization efforts by the department. She said the department is facing a monumental task with housing code enforcement and housing at the top of the list.
Surdyk said there are just three Code Enforcement Officers right now, “It takes up a lot of our time and energy every day, all day long. We’re on call 24-7. It’s not uncommon to get a call from one these guys (Police) in the middle of the night or on a weekend. And it’s been a really great partnership with the Police Department, with the Fire Department, our other departments.”
Surdyk said the collaboration between the departments has been important because they’re all dealing with the same issues. She said it’s helped the department make some strides.
Surdyk added that housing and housing conditions impact economic development, “..and vice versa, so you really can’t look at neighborhoods and downtown development and business development as separate things. They all have to be worked on at the same time. It’s not a this or this. It has to be this and this and this.”
Jamestown Police Chief Tim Jackson presented next and said the most important issue for police right now is gun violence which comes with narcotics issues. He said as of August 14, there have been 16 confirmed shootings this year, compared with 19 for all of 2021, “In 2022, our cases involving reports of firearms have increased 4.2% compared to year-to-date 2021 and 76.2%, compared to the five-year average. And the five year average is 27.8 cases, so it is an increase.”
He said the shootings have taken place all over the city, which makes it difficult to combat because officers can’t necessarily target where the next shooting event might take place.
Police Captain Scott Forster presented on the department’s work under the GIVE grant, or Gun Involved Violence Elimination grant, which is under its ninth year in the city, “GIVE focuses not only on gun violence but it focuses on domestic incidences, community engagements, it helps pay for our Crime Analyst, which obviously then assists with us with the information we need to run our targeted patrols. As the Chief mentioned, the shots fired calls, warrant services, and then a word you’ve heard a lot tonight, is partnerships.”
Forster said the department works closely with local law enforcement as well as Federal partnerships.
Chief Jackson said prior the presentation that the collaboration with Federal partners has helped the city get around some of the bail reform restrictions in place under New York State.
Jackson said hiring continues to be an issue for the department, with three positions open right now. This includes the Quality of Life Officer that had been approved by council in the spring which was to solely be assigned to deal with issues in the city such as noise and neighborhood complaints.
Sheriff Jim Quattrone was in attendance and echoed the issue facing law enforcement with recruitment, “We currently have nobody who has training and qualifications on the civil service list to be hired by any police department in the county. We currently have 14 Chautauqua County residents in the (Sheriff’s) Academy but they just started, so they won’t be ready to even get out of the Academy until around May, May or June of next year. So that is creating a problem. We’ve looked at other departments but really we’d just be taking them from another jurisdiction.”
Dolce said following the forum, council members and the administration will compile the comments and requests, “Put it together and then put our heads together and see where we go. This is just a beginning. These are issues that are not going to be solved overnight. They weren’t created overnight. But these are the types of things that involve the community that help us help them and move forward.”
Dolce added he does plan to have additional public forums in the future.