Felony Drug Arrests In City Nearly Double From Last Year

Despite Rise, Overall Violent Crime Down Last Two Years

Jamestown has averaged nearly three felony drug arrests a week through the first 10 months of 2017 — almost double the number in 2016.

According to the latest statistics from the state’s Gun Involved Violence Elimination program, Jamestown has had 126 felony drug arrests through Oct. 10, 2017, compared to 70 through Oct. 10, 2016. Misdemeanor drug arrests have also skyrocketed again this year, with 173 through the first 10 months of the year compared to 91 in the first 10 months of 2016.

The increase in drug-related arrests is more evidence of the prevalence of illegal drugs in Jamestown and the priority Jamestown police are placing on policing the drug trade in the city.

“I attribute that to two things,” said Harry Snellings, Jamestown police chief and public safety director. “People hear the numbers from the drug task force, but a lot of those arrests that you’re seeing in there are some of the day-to-day patrol officers’ arrests, too. Narcotic charges aren’t necessarily a drug investigation. It could be a domestic violence investigation, a traffic stop, it could be a disturbance call or a street check on someone that results in a drug charge. … It’s more prevalent in our community.”

Felony arrests have increased 16.2 percent from 390 last year to 453 this year. Violent felony offenses have increased 21.2 percent, with 80 such incidents in 2017 compared to 66 in 2016. Misdemeanor arrests have increased 14.1 percent (746 in 2016, 851 in 2017) with a 90.1 increase in misdemeanor drug arrests from 91 in 2016 to 173 in 2017.

The news isn’t all bad, however.

Despite 2016’s rash of November and December shootings and four homicides, violent crime decreased 10 percent in 2016 from 2015 and is decreasing again this year.

Index crimes — defined as murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny (theft), and motor vehicle theft — decreased through October 10, with 19.4 percent fewer violent crimes in 2017 compared to the first 10 months of 2016 and 17.8 percent fewer property crimes. The biggest decreases have come in the number of rapes (34 in 2016, 16 in 2017) and robbery (36 in 2016, 19 in 2017). Aggravated assault has also decreased from 111 in 2016 to 99 through Oct. 10, 2017.

Among property crimes, burglary has decreased 27.7 percent from 242 in 2017 to 175 in 2017, larceny has decreased 12.4 percent from 539 in 2016 to 472 in 2017 and motor vehicle thefts have decreased 30.2 percent from 43 in 2016 to 30 in 2017.

“Again, it’s perception and reality,” Snellings said. “I say is all the time. Comparatively to other areas we do have issues but nothing like other areas.”

There have been slight increases in crimes committed by those on parole. Total parolee arrests have increased from 35 last year to 39 in 2017, with two additional felonies by parolees this year and two additional misdemeanors by parolees this year. Fewer people on probation are being arrested in 2017, with total probationer arrests decreasing 19.3 percent from 176 in 2016 to 142 in 2017. City police reported a 17.9 percent decrease in felony crimes committed by those on probation from 84 last year to 69 in 2017 while misdemeanors committed by those on probation decreased 20.7 percent from 92 in 2016 to 73 this year.

Some persistent reoffenders are now serving lengthy prison or jail sentences, which is one reason for the decrease. That doesn’t mean the department isn’t still dealing with many of the same people repeatedly. In October alone, the department filed charges against two different people eight times, another man was charged seven times, two were charged six times, two were charged five times and 10 were charged four times.

“I think the system is overwhelmed,” Snellings said. “There are a lot of people out on probation and parole and as long as they adhere to the rules there’s no issue. No one bothers them. But it seems like we’ve had people that are out on probation and parole that reoffend. It’s not everyone. I don’t want to paint everyone with a broad stroke and say everyone who is out on probation and parole are bad. But you guys see the same names and faces over and over and over again and so does the community.”

One area that has shown improvement is aggravated assault incidents, which decreased 10.8 percent from 111 in 2016 to 99 in 2017, while the number of domestic violence-aggravated assault incidents has increased 16.7 percent from 36 to 42 incidents. The statistics are better for simple assaults, which decreased 10.4 percent from 548 in 2016 to 491 in 2017. Fewer of those incidents were domestic incidents as well, with a 12.6 decrease in domestic violence-related simple assaults from 340 last year to 297 this year.

Still, domestic violence is one of the most prevalent types of incidents the department dealt with each day. In October the department dealt with 135 past-tense domestic dispute calls.

Domestic violence is also the third-leading source of calls for service for the year, with 488 calls this year, trailing well being checks (495) and vehicle and traffic infractions (2,023).

Project Crossroads, the department’s domestic violence program operated in partnership with the YWCA and Salvation Army, opened 314 domestic violence reports in the third quarter of 2017, with 141 on-site arrests and 49 warrants applied.

“A significant amount of our violent crime is domestic violence-oriented,” Snellings said. “A lot of it is aggravated assault, which is our focus under GIVE. That’s one of our major issues.”