If you’ve had your eye on social media over the past five or six weeks, you’ve probably seen the declarations: “Old Beacon is back,” or “Beacon is catching up to Newburgh.”
After a number of felony arrests, some social media users suggest that crime — particularly violent crime — is rising in the city. Do the numbers bear that out?
Here’s a summary of what has happened recently.
On Dec. 16, members of the Dutchess County Drug Task Force arrested Raequan Keemer, 27, on charges that he had crack cocaine that he intended to sell. The arrest was attributed to the task force’s ongoing investigation of drug sales in Beacon. Keemer is due in City Court on Feb. 15.
On Jan. 1, Beacon police responded to a report of a body found in a stream in a wooded area near Teller Avenue and Henry Street. While police announced last week that Walter Miranda, 58, had died of a head injury likely sustained in an accidental fall, speculation was rampant in the interim, with online threads amassing scores of comments.
Two days after Miranda’s body was found, on Jan. 3, a Beacon man was arrested when police said he turned himself in after allegedly setting fire to a Wolcott Avenue house. The man, Brian Atkinson, 56, had been scheduled to appear in City Court that day for an eviction hearing initiated by the owner of the house. Atkinson’s next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 23.
On Jan. 13, police announced the arrest of a Forrestal Heights resident accused of possessing an illegal “ghost gun.” The unregistered weapons are assembled from parts or kits that include an unfinished piece such as a frame or receiver with no serial number.
Officers said that Charles Plowden, 35, was detained on Main Street with the handgun and a 31-round, high-capacity magazine loaded with 24 rounds of ammunition. He is due to appear in City Court on Wednesday (Feb. 8).
On Jan. 26, Putnam County sheriff’s deputies arrested two Beacon residents following a report of domestic violence in Philipstown.
The department said in a news release that deputies had responded about 11:50 p.m. to the parking lot of a business on Route 9, where they determined that Jaznia McCrae, 23, had been tracking her ex-boyfriend, Naije Perrette, 23, because she was angry he had taken his new girlfriend to a Brooklyn Nets basketball game.
McCrae is accused of ramming Perrette’s vehicle several times as they drove north on Route 9. After the vehicles stopped in a parking lot, McCrae allegedly threw automotive oil on Perrette and on the inside and outside of his car. Police said Perrette then assaulted McCrae and battered her vehicle and broke several windows with a car battery he removed from his trunk.
Perrette fled the scene, police said, but was soon arrested in Wappingers Falls by the Putnam officers with help from the New York State Police. He was charged with misdemeanor assault and felony criminal mischief and released with an order of protection.
McCrae was taken by the Philipstown Volunteer Ambulance Corps to NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital, where she was treated and released. She was charged with two counts of felony reckless endangerment, felony criminal mischief and driving with a suspended license. She was arraigned in Philipstown Town Court and, because she was on probation, remanded to the Putnam County Jail.
A day later, Beacon officers arrested Max Kleiner, 31, who is alleged to have stabbed a woman in her Wolcott Avenue home. When officers arrived at the scene, Kleiner was still inside the home with blood on his clothes, police said. The woman, who suffered multiple wounds to the neck, was transported to a hospital, where she was treated and released, according to the department.
This week, Matt Landahl, the superintendent of the Beacon school district, announced that city police had identified the person who made an online threat toward Rombout Middle School.
In addition, Beacon police have made no arrests in the Christmas Day 2021 killing of Rene Vivo, 65, a veteran known as “Scout,” or Lionell Pittman Jr., 32, who was shot and killed in a parking lot at the Forrestal Heights apartment complex in May. (Police Chief Sands Frost said he could not comment on the Scout or Pittman homicide investigations. “Other than the families, there’s nobody that wants to close those cases more than we do,” he said.)
The rash of recent incidents is noteworthy, said Mayor Lee Kyriacou, but likely an anomaly. “There isn’t any question” that crime has been trending downward over the 30 years he has lived in the city, he said.
“There are always going to be occasional high-profile incidents,” Kyriacou said. “I can understand people’s concerns, but [the recent activity] doesn’t translate into a trend.”
Each year, New York State compiles data submitted by police agencies showing trends in each of seven categories created by the FBI: murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, which are classified as violent crimes, and the property crimes of burglary, larceny and auto theft.
State numbers show violent and property crime in Beacon decreasing each year from 2017 to 2021.
In 2017, the Beacon police reported 43 violent crimes; by 2021, the number was down 65 percent, to 15. Likewise, there were 240 property crimes reported in Beacon in 2017; in 2021 those had fallen nearly 73 percent, to 66.
The state has yet to publish statistics for 2022 (the Beacon police cannot release those numbers ahead of New York State), but an analysis of police blotter entries shows that, overall, police activity stayed virtually flat from 2021 to 2022. In 2021, according to the blotters, Beacon police responded to 7,563 calls. In 2022, there were 7,643.
Chief Frost said that, while there have been a number of higher-profile incidents lately, it’s a far cry from when he was hired as a Beacon patrol officer in the early 1980s. The recent incidents are a string of “singular” events, rather than the recurring crime, such as Main Street robberies, he saw after joining the force in 1983.
“That’s not happening now. Beacon is still a safe place to come to go shopping or out to eat,” he said.
I’m not sure if this is the right question for my favorite — and modestly underfunded — local paper, The Current, to be asking. Regrettably, The Current publishes half-truths by posting the Beacon police blotter on its website. Crimes are not covered in totality for the time periods stated — merely transgressions that usually don’t even rise to the misdemeanor level.
I am a lawyer and have represented public-safety professionals for 30-plus years, so I am familiar with public-safety agencies fudging numbers. But after moving here in 2017, I emailed to my friends the police “blotter” to entice them to come and visit. Some visited and many moved up. Based on what I have been told, the Beacon crime blotter is nothing close to truth. It presents Beacon as Mayberry, Disney or the “anti-Newburgh.”
The Current takes the selectively redacted blotter sent by the Beacon Police Department, rightly further editing out sensitive information, and posts it online. So, the editor knows this data is not only inaccurate, but incomplete and dishonest. Why waste the space? Why not let me write a column reviewing fantasy fiction? This would cleave closer to the indicators of the Trust Project standards that allegedly guide your journalism.
You should ditch publishing this propaganda for my “safe” city. It is not only inconsistent with The Current’s standards, but fails a test attributed to Socrates: “If what you want to say is neither true, nor good or kind, nor useful or necessary, please don’t say anything at all.”
We have published a disclaimer on the blotter noting it may not be complete since we learned, in 2021, that serious incidents had not been included.