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July 6, 2015 - 6:12pm

Drug use is a prominent factor in rise of crime in Genesee County

Crime totals for Genesee County have been slowly increasing over the past four years according to reports from the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services.

The total number of property crimes in the county have increased from 1,358 cases in 2013 to 1,397 cases in 2014. Many of the property crimes committed in the county are driven by drugs according to officials.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman has seen a large percentage of larceny and burglary cases related to drug use.

"The one that is becoming most problematic in recent times is heroin," Friedman said. "We are certainly seeing a resurgence in the use of it. To a large extent, heroin disappeared from our view for years but now it's back." 

Sgt. Greg Walker of the Genesee County Sheriff's Office said heroin is popular in the county because it is easy to obtain and inexpensive. Walker leads the drug task force and works with the community to get tips on illegal drug activity. The drug hotline receives tips from residents every day. The Batavia Police Department, Village of Le Roy Police Department and Genesee County District Attorney's office are involved with the drug task force as well.

Walker said tackling drug abuse involves the combination of law enforcement, the courts and drug rehabilitation centers. He said law enforcement needs to crack down on selling, the courts have to issue appropriate penalties, and people suffering with addiction have to want to seek treatment.

In addition to the drug problem, another factor contributing to property crimes specifically larceny is people failing to lock their vehicles.

"In our case what we're seeing are larcenies from unlocked vehicles," Batavia Police Chief Shawn Heubusch said. "That has been a big increase in the last year or so. Whether it's change or GPS devices or other personal property, it should not be left in an unlocked vehicle."

The total amount of violent crime in the county has remained steady for most local law enforcement agencies. 

The Batavia Police Department has seen a small increase in the number of reported violent crimes. The number of aggravated assault crimes increased from 37 cases in 2013 to 42 cases in 2014.

According to Heubusch, the increase in the number of aggravated assault crimes is due to additional effort to prosecute the perpetrators. The police department works closely with victim advocate agencies so the abuse can be reported.

The YWCA is one of the organizations that works with law enforcement to advocate for victims. The organization refers victims to police and assists with filing orders of protection. They also help victims by providing housing, personal care products and referrals for other services they may need. 

According to Jeanne Walton, executive director of the YWCA, the organization's domestic violence hotline has received 415 calls since Jan. 1. Walton said the number of calls has increased from previous years.

For crime in surrounding counties, the number of violent and property crimes in Orleans County and Wyoming County have steadily decreased over the past four years. 

To view annual crime reports by the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services, click here.

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