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Ortt decries uptick in violent crime in Niagara County

Thomas O'Neil-White

Wednesday night’s fatal shooting of a 20-year-old man plus three other shootings in the span of five hours over the weekend, leaving two people wounded, has led legislators and law enforcement officials in Niagara County to call for reforms they believe will curb the recent surge in violent crime.

State Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt said criminal justice reforms enacted by the state in 2019 has hamstrung police officers trying to keep violent criminals off the street.

“It was pretty clear that all these changes to the law and then a compounding impact that has resulted in an increase not in crime as a whole,” he said. “But an increase in violent crime, an increase in shootings and increase in murders an increase in assaults.”

Ortt said a lack of input from law enforcement before the reforms were enacted has helped to create this current climate.

“If we were talking about changes to infrastructure, we'd have engineers and construction folks there,” he said. “You're talking about changes to criminal justice, and not one police officer, not one district attorney, who we task with keeping us safe. They were not part of the discussions at all. Totally shut out.”

Bail reform, judicial discretion and determining whether someone is a flight risk are all issues Ortt said legislators should sit down with law enforcement officials to amend, while also adding funding to law enforcement municipalities across the state. He is urging new Gov. Kathy Hochul to meet with law enforcement agencies from across the state and come up with solutions to what he calls a public safety crisis.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.