Malone’s jaw-dropping crime statistics: We need a detective & third judge

August 8, 2017

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— Calvin Luther Martin, PhD

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Malone has a drug problem.  So does the rest of America, although for our purposes this is irrelevant, since  you and I don’t live in the rest of America; we look at the rest of America on TV.  What I’m about to describe isn’t a TV program; it’s your home and mine.  We can’t make our drug problem go away by turning off the TV; we’re going to have to do something about it.  Moreover, it’s our problem, not the state’s or federal government’s.  It’s up to us to fix it with a multi-tiered plan.
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Hand-in-hand with our drug problem is an off-the-charts crime problem.  Several weeks ago, a blog calling itself NYup.com printed a sensationalist article, “Twenty Most Dangerous Places in Upstate NY, According to Latest FBI Crime Data.”  The article listed the Village of Malone as #20, behind Poughkeepsie (#19), Utica (#16), Albany (#13), Watertown (#9), and Niagara Falls (#1).  (NYup.com should be taken with a grain of salt.  To give you a sense of the fare it serves up, this is a sampler from today’s teasers, 8-1-17:  “Couple accused of public sex act at Enchanted Water Safari,”  “Northeast naturist festival:  Six days of naked fun at nude retreat,” and “How the alligator was captured by DEC on upstate river.”  Sex, nudity, and ‘gators on the loose — sounds like a tabloid.)

Here’s how NYup.com crunched the numbers that landed “Malone:  Star of the North since 1802” among the 20 most dangerous places on earth in upstate NY:

NYup.com gave the Village of Malone a so-called Crime Score of 1075.  “To create the score,” says author Ben Axelson, “we standardized the number of crimes per 100,000 people” — his first mistake.  There is no credible “standardization” of crimes per arbitrary population figure.  There are far too many unknown and unknowable variables to make this number meaningful.  (Perfect example of garbage in, garbage out.)  Axelson compounds his goofy statistics with, “Then, we [arbitrarily] weighted violent crimes at 80 percent and property crimes at 20 percent [of what?], as violent crime is often of greater concern to residents.”

Mr. Axelson should stick to journalism and lay off math.

That said, he has a point.  Malone does indeed have an alarming crime problem, undoubtedly fueled by drugs — heroin and fentanyl in tandem with an avalanche of opiods and benzodiazepines in pill form.  Add in cocaine, marijuana, and booze and who knows what else, and you’ve got a lot of wonked out people — some of them, seriously so.  A toxic brew for all manner of crime.

Drugs are only part of the reason for our ballooning crime.  We’re the county seat of one of the 2 or 3 poorest counties in the state.  The village attracts the beaten-down, beaten-up, and beaters-of-others.  In droves.  Not just from the North Country but just about everywhere east of the Mississippi.  Why?  Local lore has it that Franklin County is widely known to be a cinch for getting welfare assistance.  (I suspect there is much truth to this.)  They live by the hordes in the village, since 95% of them (I just made up this figure, but it’s pretty darn close to truth) are without cars.  They walk — to the courthouse or, now, the new county building on Finney Blvd.  Lord knows there are plenty of landlords who will give them housing — whereupon these mostly riffraff proceed to ruin the neighborhood for the rest of us.
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(I live in one such neighborhood, and my patience is wearing thin.  In the past 3 weeks I had to file formal charges against a young mother whom I labelled The Obscene Screamer.  I didn’t know her name, so this sufficed.  She finally vacated the neighborhood to inflict herself on another neighborhood in the village.  Round and round it goes, with our tax dollars paying for this headache.)

Here’s a more meaningful perspective on Malone’s crime scene, compared to Massena, Potsdam, Canton, Tupper Lake, and Saranac Lake.  (Click on the arrow in the lower right corner of the image, below, to read the PDF in full-screen mode.  Or click here to download the PDF.)
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I pulled these statistics from reports generated by the State of New York, Division of Criminal Justice Services, Office of Justice Research and Performance (click here).  (You may be interested in the FBI’s annual Unified Crime Report — UCR — available here.). I have given simply the monthly total for all crimes enumerated in the report.  Note the total reported crimes for each village, by year. Malone is consistently high, surpassed only by Massena, which is out of control.

Let me get personal about all this. Here is what these statistics look like on my street.
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Then, 6 days later, this:
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My wife, a physician, wondered where these came from.  These are not diabetes needles; they’re too large.  Nina (my wife) speculated they must have been stolen from a doctor’s office or clinic.  I later found out from the Village PD (Police Dept) that these are available to anyone at Kinney’s or any other drugstore, without a prescription, courtesy of our state legislature and governor.

The PD also told me that a child walking to Flanders School spotted one of these in the gutter on Main Street, picked it up, began fiddling with it, and wound up sticking either himself (herself) or some other kid — by accident.  When this happened, I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that it happened.  The PD also tells me that these discarded needles have been found on the playground at Flanders.

I am also told that staff at local convenience stores (Stewarts, Maplefields, etc.) are finding these by the dozens in their trash bins.  Sometimes the discarded needles are dropped off at the PD building, or an officer is called to retrieve them.  The PD has a bunch of what are called Sharp’s containers, which they routinely fill with needles and turn over to Alice Hyde.  On the day I stopped by the PD to interview Chief Premo for this article, he invited me to photograph their current collection:
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The sergeant who showed me these shook his head in disbelief.  He’s been on the force many years and never seen anything remotely like this in Malone.  Remember, this isn’t marijuana or bottles of Budweiser; this hideous stuff is being grown in vast fields in Afghanistan and Myanmar (Burma) and probably South America, and making its way to Clay Street via a tentacled network of suppliers, middlemen, and dealers.

Heroin.  This is the stuff that only down-and-out lost souls used to use in the alleys of NYC and Chicago when I was a kid.  Now — it’s my neighbors?  Your neighbors?   Nor are they all riffraff; there are plenty of respectable-looking and respectable-behaving people who are heroin addicts in Malone.  (In Albuquerque, my adult daughter, a Registered Nurse, was one of them.  Whether she is still, I don’t know.)  Today (8-8-17), Pres. Trump held a press conference on America’s opioid crisis. I read the article in the Washington Post, which reported the following mortality figures from the Centers for Disease Control:
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In 2015, more than 33,000 people died of opioid overdose, with an additional 20,000 dying from other drugs, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures. And deaths from drug overdoses rose sharply in the first nine months of 2016, the government reported Tuesday. The rate of overdose deaths increased every three months last year, reaching a record 19.9 per 100,000 people in the third quarter, up from 16.7 for the same three months in 2015. Data for the last three months of 2016 or this year is not yet available (Washington Post 8-8-17)

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I said this is our problem and we need to handle it, not expect Albany or Washington to miraculously do it on our behalf. Obviously, if the state or feds can intercept this contraband before it reaches us, that’s wonderful and much appreciated. But, once it’s here, we own it must deal with it.

Heroin and other drugs are a bellwether of a larger crime problem. Crime is the responsibility of the police, in this case the village police. It’s my understanding that the state police have little to do with crime in the village. Our police department currently stands at 4 sergeants, 8 officers, and 1 chief. Given the crime data for the past 3 years, and especially when the numbers are compared to North Country towns of more or less the same size, it looks to me like we need more cops.

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Chief Premo tells me that a detective would be an enormous help.  He says that they are also looking into getting a narcotics-sniffing dog. Evidently Officer Greg Pecore has expressed interest in being the dog’s handler.  (Greg trained another German Shepherd in tracking, some years back.  He has a way with dogs.)
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Officer Greg Pecore, “The Dog Whisperer”

The state police run a 20-week dog training program in Cooperstown.  Chief Premo readily admits the PD can’t afford to lose, or pay, an officer for this length of time. If we get a dog, it would have to be through some other, cheaper venue.  It may be possible to raise funds for a suitable dog and have someone like Officer Pecore train the dog himself.  (Would you help buy this pup for the Village PD?)
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Considering that the Municipal Court handles these thousands of crime cases, I think a strong case can be made that we should add a third justice. At present, the two judges we have are swamped. Just ask them.

With a beefed up Police Department and another judge, we can, hopefully, keep these crime statistics from climbing further, and swiftly address the crimes as they occur. The issue, however, is deeper than just crime, just as it is deeper than drug addiction.
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Chemical structure of heroin

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What compels people to inject heroin into their veins? What compels people to commit theft and vandalism and bodily injury crimes? Here, I think we need the advice of health professionals.  I suggest that the mayor and trustees put together a panel of local health professionals and ask them to advise the community on taking steps toward healing the crime and drugs.
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I use the word “heal.” I use it carefully. Crime and drugs are really somebody screaming for help, perhaps screaming inside. How to reach the damaged, fearful, often angry and dangerous soul inside — how to repair the wounds of childhood abuse and neglect, which are surely the source of much of this — requires enormous skill and patience. This is where professionals in substance abuse and counseling, psychiatry, and psychotherapy are desperately needed.
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I mentioned Flanders Elementary School.  I often gaze out at those kids playing during recess on sturdy yellow-blue-red swings, slides, monkey-bars, 2-story fort, a merry-go-round and climbing wall and poles, chin-up bars, rockers.  Amazing!  Amid an acre of grassy field and trees.  The children are innocent.  They are happy.  They are good.  Then a cloud passes over my brow, and I marvel that some of the children I’m watching (I feel like God watching over his beloved children) will someday be shooting up heroin, or beating on someone, or be filled with darkness and anger.  For it will surely happen.  How do 7 and 8-year-olds make the journey from this playground to drug addiction, intense sorrow, darkness, violence, despair, sometimes prison and, on occasion, premature death?

I don’t have good answers.  I grieve that I don’t.  Let us begin a community-wide conversation on how we might heal and otherwise address the lost souls among us, and how we might interrupt this journey — the journey of death — for the children on our playgrounds and steer them (can’t we?) in a better direction.

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