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Falls police team up to make IMPACT

New bicycle patrols are one part of moving more officers into the community.

Other new initiatives are designed to be much more covert.

They are all part of plans for this year's Operation IMPACT, which stands for Integrated Municipal Police Anti-Crime Teams.

Now in its fourth year, the statewide program funds $17 million statewide. Niagara Falls has requested nearly half a million dollars this year.

"Without a doubt, it's been the most significant change in how we now do things. Everything is intelligence driven. Crime is analyzed before we fight it," said Police Superintendent John R. Chella.

He said that originally a big part of Operation IMPACT was overtime for his officers to "saturate the streets," teaming task forces with state police and county deputies on the weekends.

"Residents liked it, but it seemed like we were just writing a lot of tickets," said Officer Nicholas J. Ligammari, who leads the department's grants development unit.

"It was pure perception, but crime did go down 6 percent," said Chella.

He said now there will be a change in that same police environment called "crime impact teams."

"The same out-of-town trooper or sheriff's deputy will work in plain clothes in an unmarked car," Chella said. "It's a major wrinkle this year. We'll have the element of surprise."

Funds will be used for both a crime analyst and a field intelligence officer. This would be the second year of funding for the crime analyst. The city has been funding the field intelligence officer and is now asking the state to aid in this funding, Chella said.

He said the city Probation Department, the City of Lockport, the Sheriff's Office and Border Patrol also have field intelligence officers, with intelligence that also includes Lewiston and Town of Niagara.

"We rely on a dedicated individual to get intelligence, analyze it and disseminate it everyday. We get a document every day, and field intelligence goes to everyone through e-mail," Chella said. He said the reporting has improved in the last few years, going from having two weeks between information reports to now having only one day of lag time.

"The whole concept is partnerships," said Chella.

Chella said this year the city police have renewed an old program called "safe shopping days," with officers cycling and walking inhigh-crime areas. That program is federally funded by the Weed and Seed program.

Ligammari said Weed and Seed runs hand in hand with Operation IMPACT, but the former only funds officers in specific target areas labeled high crime -- north of Pine Avenue, east of the river, south of Niagara University and west of Packard Road.

"Weed and Seed is designed to get rid of criminals but also offer treatment for addiction," Ligammari said. "It's not just about the arrest."

"I'd say about 50 percent of larcenies are driven by the need to feed a drug habit," Chella said.

"We try to team at least one Niagara Falls officer with a State Police or State Parks Police officer," Chella said.

"Protecting tourists is important," he said. "But we also have to protect the 365-day-a-year resident. That's why we have patrols in high crime areas for safe shopping days. Most foot or bike patrols are in nice areas, but we've expanded into other areas."


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