NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Niagara Gazette recently published an article stating that it received a statement from the union representing Niagara Falls Police officers and detectives about adding more officers to the city. This comea after residents raised complaints due to safety concerns.
The Gazette said the statement, which was approved by the Niagara Falls Police Club, said officers have worked forced overtime. According to the Gazette, the statement said, "On an average summer weekend in the summer, around 70% of each (patrol) shift is working 16 hour shifts, mostly against their will."
"It's not good for the safety, and well being of officers," said Niagara Falls City Councilwoman, Traci Bax. "Also not good for the safety of residents to have fatigued officers out there protecting them."
In 2020 7 News reported that homicides were up 300% in Niagara Falls. The Gazette said the union's statement said Niagara Falls response time to emergencies is longer than the national average, and 31 minutes for non-emergencies, compared to a 10 minute average on the national level.
On Friday the city council approved half a million dollars for 11 new police vehicles. In the past, some vehicles were handed down from other
departments. In total more than one million dollars is being allocated by Niagara Falls for police vehicles, not all are patrol cars.
Niagara Falls has 155 sworn officers, and according to US Census estimates the city has 46,844 people. That means there's a ratio of 302 people per officer.
"The police club has not come to us as a city council yet to let us know there's an issue," said councilman Kenny Tompkins.
Tompkins said officer staffing has been an issue for more than 15 years, but finding officers isn't the problem.
"Right now it's about the funding. The funding all comes from taxes," said Tompkins, adding it comes down to how much taxpayers are willing to spend.
Tompkins said adding one officer would add $42 to each household's annual taxes in Niagara Falls.
"Niagara Falls is a poor city right now going through a transition," said Tompkins. He said without additional funding, other services would have to be cut from the budget to add police staff.
"You take away from the Department of Public Works, say four guys there to bring on four police officers, but then how are police going to get to the call if the streets aren't plowed," explained Tompkins.
"We need to have some discussion around this," said Bax. "More importantly what the solutions are."
The Mayor and Niagara Falls Police Chief were not available for comment on Friday.