While attacking what they termed “a baseless conspiracy theory” advanced by Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler, Newburgh City Officials announced what they called a major crime reduction on Monday.
According to a press release, the City of Newburgh Police Department reported “a dramatic 64 percent drop in bullet-to-body shootings and a 22 percent drop in all violent crime,” following “Operation Bandemic,” a joint operation with the FBI’s Hudson Valley Safe Streets Task Force and New York State Police that took 28 violent gang members off the street since November 2022. The City also reported a 20 percent reduction in property crimes during this same period.
“The City of Newburgh is grateful for the partnership and commitment of the United States Department of Justice and Governor Kathy Hochul in supporting our successful efforts to reduce crime across the City,” said City Manager Todd Venning in a prepared statement. “The numbers tell the story.”
The City of Newburgh Police Department reports crime data on a weekly basis to the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), which verifies the reported data and makes it publicly available through a searchable online database. DCJS then reports this data to the United States Department of Justice. Additionally, the City of Newburgh uploads full arrest reports to its website every week, according to the press release issued by Mike Neppl, Chief of Staff.
Venning, in the same release, accused the District Attorney of advancing “a baseless conspiracy theory” fabricated by a News 12 presenter that the City is falsifying crime and arrest data.
“The City of Newburgh fully reports all crime data to DCJS and the United States Department of Justice as required by state and federal laws and agreements,” said Police Commissioner Jose Gomerez. “Our data is verified and made public through multiple independent sources. It is alarming that an experienced law enforcement professional would not understand basic crime reporting requirements.”
The Newburgh City Council issued a joint statement addressing the conspiracy theory advanced by News 12 and District Attorney Hoovler
“Any suggestion that the City of Newburgh Police Department is not in full compliance with all crime reporting requirements under state and federal laws is a deluded, reckless, egregious lie that calls into question District Attorney Hoovler’s integrity, and his continued fitness to serve,” the statement read. “The people of Orange County deserve better than a District Attorney using his position to pay back political contributors on his way out of office.”
Hoovler, in response, issued a statement of his own on Monday, in which he denied accusing the city of falsifying crime data and suggested an unnamed source, quoted in the News 12 story as saying the “city doesn’t want any negative information coming out,” may have been commenting on the city’s policy with regard to press inquiries, rather than its own crime reporting. Several media outlets, including the Mid Hudson Times, have reported that city department heads are not normally permitted to speak directly to the media and that media releases must first be cleared by the City Manager’s office prior to their release.
“I have long advocated for transparency in how law enforcement officials, and indeed all government officials, deal with inquiries from the public, including from the press, particularly on matters concerning public safety,” said Hoovler. “I have personally been asked by City of Newburgh officials to cut down on press releases issued on crimes that originated in the City of Newburgh. I am therefore not surprised to hear from news reporters that the City of Newburgh under City Manager Venning is issuing fewer press releases on arrests and violent crimes than they did previously. My office has continued to issue press releases on significant events and crimes because it is important for the public to be aware of crime, and of the great work regularly being done by City of Newburgh Police Officers and other law enforcement agencies.”
Hoovler also stated that, “While we wish to maintain a close and productive working relationship with the City of Newburgh Police, their current administration has often closed the doors to receiving more help, including removing a District Attorney’s Office Criminal Investigator that we had imbedded in their Detective Bureau to aid in shooting cases. While it is the City’s prerogative to not accept aid, it is shortsighted. More importantly, it is reckless for City Manager Venning to make baseless allegations about what the District Attorney’s Office has said, particularly when the allegations are debunked by the very news report that they refer to. It is also distressing that the Police Commissioner would repeat such baseless allegations. I also believe that it is Mr. Venning’s duty to make sure that the City Council and Mayor have the correct information before making allegations that are easy to verify.”
Neppl responded to those comments Tuesday morning.
“District Attorney Hoovler is back peddling and finger-pointing to avoid accountability, taking a page straight out of the political bully’s playbook,” Neppl said. “ We will not tolerate District Attorney Hoovler’s continued attempts to intimidate the City or undermine the rule of law in Orange County.”