In a report dated Aug. 21 by New York Upstate, Wyoming County ranks fourth in the least crime-ridden counties in New York State. The county reports 797 violent and property crimes combined per 100,000 people. Nearby Allegany County boasts 11 fewer and Putnam County has the least number of violent/property crimes with 609.
According to information culled from the Crime in New York State 2015 Preliminary Data report, statewide crime per 100,000 people between 2006 and 2015 dropped 20.7 percent – from 2,475.7 to 1,964.1. Violent Crime dropped 13 percent – from 434.2 to 378 per 100,000, and property crime decreased 22.3 percent – from 2,041.5 to 1,586.1.
Wyoming County had a total of 1,032.2 crimes – 141.9 violent and 890.3 property – in 2015, per 100,000 people.
The report states that crime reached an all-time low in 2015 since statewide reporting began in 1975.
Nearby Genesee and Erie counties were counted in the top 25 most crime-ridden counties, with Genesee ranking 14 – 2,040.7 total crimes – 195.9 violent and 1,844.8 property, and Erie County coming in at the fifth most crime-ridden county with a total of 2,829.8 crimes, of which 410.8 are violent and 2,418.9 are property crimes.
Additionally, more than half of Western New York counties are ranked in the top 25 most crime-ridden counties in the state. Of the five counties listed including Erie and Genesee, Orleans (1,614.3 total crimes per 100,000 people) is the least crime ridden and Niagara County (2,778.2) ranks number one. Chautauqua came in at number eight with 2,515.5 total violent and property crimes per 100,000 people.
What makes Wyoming County one of the safest places in the state to live? Local law enforcement and the District Attorney’s office credit its community.
“First of all we live in a community with hard-working people who take pride in their families, property and their community as a whole,” said Wyoming County District Attorney Donald O’Geen. “Second, the one thing that stands out to me when you mention the other counties and their crime rates is that in Wyoming County we (the chiefs, sheriff, troopers, probation, and my staff) take the approach that we are all on the same team, so we generally are all pulling in the same direction.”
“I agree with District Attorney O'Geen with respect that our community here in Wyoming County is a very hard-working group of people who do take pride in their families, property and the community as a whole,” said Attica Police Chief Dean Hendershott. “The core values of the citizens in our county is amazing.”
The joint cooperation and investment into its communities are equally shared in all aspects of law enforcement throughout the county and beyond, officials say. The interagency communication, partnering and general idea of "let's get the job done" are paramount.
“We have all but eliminated ‘turf’ issues among departments,” O’Geen said. “We embrace new ideas and technologies such a treatment courts, re-entry programs, body cameras, aggressive welfare fraud investigations, and a lean but highly efficient drug task force.”
“I believe the residents of Wyoming County believe in public safety and that it is a core function of government on every level, which in turn garnishes support at their respective legislature or boards,” said Wyoming County Sheriff Greg Rudolph. “Additionally, Wyoming County law enforcement agencies have the vast majority of their deputies, officers and troopers living here in their community. They have a vested interest and pride in serving and protecting the area where they grew up and where their children are being raised.”
Wyoming County finds itself leading on public safety issues, as opposed to following, says O’Geen. Additionally, the Board of Supervisors gives its full support to public safety issues.
“They recognize that public safety is one of the primary functions of government and they fully support a unified criminal justice system,” O’Geen said. “My perception is that our village governments take that same position.”
There is a combined total of 49 full-time and 32 part-time officers in Wyoming County, which includes law enforcement from the villages of Attica, Arcade, Perry, and Warsaw, and the Sheriff’s Office. Additionally, there are eight full-time and seven part-time employees in the Communications Division of the Sheriff’s Office, and 32 full-time and 11 part-time officers in the Jail Division. The numbers do not reflect the civilian clerks in the respective departments, nor the crossing guards.
“We also receive a lot of information and cooperation from our community, which in turn results in both deterrence and prosecution,” Rudolph said. “As Don mentioned, our law enforcement community has a team approach and worries more about doing the right things and doing a professional job than receiving credit. A perfect example is the Drug Task Force.”
With the heroin/opioid epidemic that is hitting all communities, even the rural ones, the Drug Task Force does its fair share in keeping the crime rate lower, officials say. Each law enforcement agency is represented on the task force, however, it is not a full-time position.
“More time and funding needs to be put towards the task force to help mitigate the flow of illegal drugs into our communities that is poisoning our youth, our future, but also individuals, family members and parents,” Hendershott said.
“As the sign in my office says, ‘It is amazing what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit’ (Harry S. Truman). This is the common goal and purpose of law enforcement in Wyoming County. In my 27 years as a police officer I can't recall such cooperation, not only within the county but with the State, Federal and out of county law enforcement. Sept. 11 forged such relationships and cooperation.”
The District Attorney’s office continues to be highly aggressive with the most dangerous criminals by holding them accountable for their actions. The Office takes a strong stance against heroin dealers, burglars and domestic-violence perpetrators, which make a difference in keeping crime down, officials say.
“By holding them accountable, we are creating a culture where they know it will not be tolerated and in some cases that culture is driving criminals right out of the county,” O’Geen said.
The jail runs a highly disciplined operation to ensure accountability, Rudolph says, but also boasts a school and 14 programs that range from religious to substance abuse rehab to parenting to assist in rehabilitation.
All law enforcement officials in the county agree, they approach every call as problem solvers, putting the community first.
“In light of the attacks against law enforcement officers around the country, the people of Wyoming County have been nothing but kind, cordial and extremely supportive of our mission and work,” Rudolph said. “As with any group of people, there is a 1-percent rule that does make our duties extremely difficult at times, however, the constant professionalism displayed by the men and women in law enforcement in our county provides for a safe result nearly every time.”