Crime in Amsterdam Neighborhoods

Posted: October 22, 2011 in Crime

I was actually a bit unsettled today when I read the article Fewer Violent Crimes in Area in the Recorder. I’m glad to hear that according to Amsterdam Police Chief Greg Culick, overall crime rates have “went down a little” over the past year.  And I don’t dispute that assertion. What concerns me greatly, however,  is this outlook from Mayor Thane

Mayor Ann Thane said crime was not a major issue in Amsterdam pointing to a recent meeting at Centro Civico in the East End where residents were asked to rank the problems of the city and their neighborhood. Drugs and crime did not make the list. “I don’t see an especially high crime problem,” she said. “I’m not hearing complaints about crime and I think the neighborhood watch programs are working very effectively.”

So, putting on my Neighborhood Watch Coordinator cap for a second, I can tell you that crime most definitely is a major issue for some neighborhoods and there are plenty of complaints. Just because crime problems were not reported at this East End meeting does not mean it does not exist . And it certainly doesn’t prove that it’s not a major problem for the entire city either.  Aggregate data does not always give you an accurate picture of what is happening in certain specific areas. And I can tell you that there are areas where crime is having a direct impact on the quality of life for local residents. Here are watcher reports that show what we have been dealing with in the past few months in the Arnold Ave area.

June 15 – Large fight reported in backyard on Chestnut St.
June 18 – Approx 15-20 teenagers/twentysomethings fighting at corner of Arnold Ave and Glen Ave,  one person was swinging a golf club, others were throwing bottles.
June 20 (morning) – Approx 20  kids fighting and hitting cars on Arnold Ave.
June 20 (afternoon) –  Approx 15 kids fighting on McElwain
June 29  – 11:30pm – Approx 20 people fighting in Arnold Park parking lot
June 30 – Large crowd gathered in the parking lot again, but no fighting, police cars nearby
Early September (didn’t get a specific date) – Approx 50 kids were fighting on Bunn St, adults were seen taking pictures. 

All these incidents were called into APD, and to their credit, would usually arrive quickly to disperse the crowds.  But if you take these incidents and then add the recent stabbing on McElwain, you start to get a picture of an area that is on edge, and very concerned about crime, especially the large numbers of youth who seem like they are completely out of control.  I’ve been a strong supporter of Mayor Thane’s Neighborhood Watch effort and I’ve been very pleased with the amount of support and cooperation our watch group receives from the APD. Overall, I believe Amsterdam is a safe place to live and that our police force does the best they can. But to say that crime is not a major issue in Amsterdam is just way off base.  I would hate to see this issue get swept under the rug during this important election season.

  1. Ann M. Thane says:

    Tim, In all fairness, I was asked if I thought Amsterdam was on the verge of a major rise in crime, which I do not. My point in discussing the opinions expressed at the East End planning meeting was that the primary concerns of the residents there were blighted properties, overgrown vegetation, litter, sidewalks in need of repair, no place for children to play, relatively few places to shop and issues that are common to all areas of the city; i.e., concerns about taxes, our educational system, and jobs. They did not organically hit upon crime as an issue; they were prompted. This is not to say that crime does not exist. It does and is present in all wards of the city, which is why I have pushed the Neighhborhood Watch initiative so insistently for three years. What I was trying to say is that we have a relatively low crime rate when compared to other municipalities in our region and that the results of our voluntary watch program have been favorable. I’m proud of the role the watch groups have played in monitoring neighborhood activity, reporting problems and preventing crime, as well as the camaraderie this effort has inspired in its participants. I also appreciate the time these individuals have devoted to our clean-ups, community events and beautification efforts.

  2. flippinamsterdam says:

    I think this post makes a relevant point on crime statistics on using macro figures versus micro figures. As much as casting Amsterdam at-large as “crime-ridden” should be considered mischaracterizing the data so should , as your numbers show, that the crime rate is consistent everywhere. So both of you are correct in what you’re stating.

    The key points center on whether we are making data driven decisions and policies to combat crime and in tandem, whether we can communicate to the internal and external public that our policies make sense and indeed, that people have a truer reflection of crime. It’s one thing to say “Amsterdam has high crime” versus “Amsterdam has some rough neighborhoods”.

    Tim, your numbers really strike the point when we have potential melees involving 10 to 30 people. I think that requires a different strategy and approach than say a rise in vandalism across the entire city. I guess that’s my point: let’s use numbers to craft sensible approaches, measure whether those approaches work, and find ways to manage outcomes — in this case lower crime. To do that, you need the macro for the while city but you also need the micro–block by block.

    if we simply follow perceptions, I believe people would be focusing resources and efforts on the East End versus the Arnold area avenue. That would be misguided based upon this exchange if I understand the numbers properly.

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