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A town councilman and local business leader claims that the tourist town of Niagara Falls, New York is under siege from criminals. Yet the town’s police chief claims that such reports are exaggerated and cites data that the incidence of crime has been falling for the last five years.

Niagara Falls’ shrinking budgets have forced the deletion of eight police positions in the past two years. This has made calls for “saturation patrols” in crime-prone areas even harder to implement.

Thomas J. Prohaska reports on the uncertain crime situation in Niagara Falls for The Buffalo News:

Police Superintendent Thomas J. Licata said the statistics the [town councilman] relied upon were exaggerated because of property crime against tourists, especially thefts from vehicles.

Even taking those into account, statistics from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services show the number of crimes reported in Niagara Falls – total reports, violent crime and property crime – has been falling for five consecutive years.

However, Councilman William Kennedy II and Anthony Poletti, president of the Pine Avenue Redevelopment Project, said flatly they don’t believe it. “For far too long, we have been told that statistics are down,” said Kennedy, a Democrat in his second year on the Council. “You know what else is down? Our population. We have to recognize that we have a safety challenge in Niagara Falls.”

[…]

“Crime is not down, and the crime is happening in broad daylight,” Poletti said. “It is like a welcome sign to Niagara Falls: ‘Take what you want. Nobody will stop you.’ ” In recent years, places-rated websites such as newyorkupstate.com, roadsnacks.net and cityrating.com have applied a weighted formula combining FBI crime statistics with Census Bureau data to rank the Falls No. 1 in crime.

Licata said those figures are unreliable for a city such as Niagara Falls, which receives millions of visitors per year. “We’re going to address it. We’re going to do everything in our power to solve the crimes and continue to fight crime in the city,” Licata said.