When challenged by Reporter David McKay Wilson, both Latimer and Gashi fail to explain their analysis or provide proof
In today's Journal News, Westchester County Executive George Latimer and Board of Legislators Chairman Vedat Gashi are taken to task for lying about crime statistics in Westchester County--lies that were first spotlighted by Dan Branda.
Latimer is quoted in the story as saying, “While certain regions in the state are grappling with unfortunate spikes in crime rates, Westchester County is once again maintaining our consistent decline in criminal activities.”
As for Gashi, the story states:
"At the podium that day with Latimer was Board of Legislators Chair Vedat Gashi, D-Yorktown, applauded Latimer for his leadership. 'I congratulate you on this great success,' Gashi gushed."
As highlighted in an earlier press release, crime is actually up in Westchester, and trending up over multiple years.
The Journal News story continues:
Somers Republican Dan Branda, who is seeking to unseat Gashi, said state crime statistics used by Latimer to prove his point show that crime is up if you start your analysis two years later, in 2019. Branda worked in the communications shop in the Astorino administration in 2017.
“I am alarmed with how easily and intentionally County Executive George Latimer lied about something as simple and independently verifiable as the growing crime rates in Westchester County,” said Branda.
“George Latimer created a narrative — that crime is down again in Westchester — and then he cherry-picked a random year of comparison. And right there standing with him, taking marching orders is my opponent.”
Branda, a longtime Westchester Republican political operative who got his start in politics with Assemblyman Greg Ball, announced in 2020 that he would run against Latimer in 2021. He subsequently dropped out before circulating nominating petitions. This year, his sharp attacks on Gashi, calls for accountability, and critiques of Latimer's policies have rattled the administration, which has largely been spared GOP criticism in recent years.
Latimer spokeswoman Catherine Cioffi said that selecting the year of 2017 was anything but random. It was the last year of the Astorino administration, and the comparison shows the impact of Latimer’s leadership, she said.
"The five-year analysis is the more accurate timeframe that takes into account for longer patterns, not impacted by individual year spikes,” said Cioffi. “The years 2020 and 2021 were COVID years – comparisons to those years would be skewed by people’s mobility patterns, staying home for larger blocks of time.”
She declined to explain how staying home for longer blocks of time increased crime in Westchester.
Latimer references state statistics showing that crime is down from the last year of the Astorino administration through 2022. During that span, total crime was down 5% and a slew of other categories showed declines as well: violent crime by 16%; murder by 47%; rape by 29%; robbery by 27%; aggravated assault by 8%; burglary by 25%; and larceny by 3%.
Branda, however, uses the same data set to show how crime rose 16% from 2019 to 2022.
During that shorter span, violent crime was up 11%; property crime up 22%; burglaries up 4%; and larcenies up 25%. The biggest spike was in motor vehicles thefts, up 71%.
“Instead of two-stepping in time behind Latimer’s lies, the Board of Legislators needs to immediately hold a hearing on crime in Westchester because crime is up across the board – 16% since 2019.”
Gashi has adopted the Latimer line that crime is on a downward trajectory. A Gashi spokesman said that the Yorktown Democrat believed crime had declined in Westchester since he took the oath of office in 2020.
"The fact is that crime has gone down during Vedat Gashi's time in office," said the spokesman in a written statement.
The spokesman declined to provide crime data to back his claim.
According to the state's Index Crime data base cited by Latimer, overall crime is up 9% from 2020 to 2022, with violent crime up 6%, robberies up 12%, aggravated assault up 7%, property crimes up 18%, burglaries up 15%, larcenies up 14%, and motor vehicle theft up 8%.
"By the numbers and by the rates, across every metric, any way he wants to slice it, Vedat is lying to us about crime," said Branda. "If Vedat cannot give an honest acknowledgement of the objective NYS data, so that we can take next steps in understanding and addressing Westchester's crime trends, then he's either too dumb or too cynical to hold public office."