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PROPERTY CRIMES TOP LIST OF RESIDENTS' CONCERNS

Property crimes are the most common crime concerns among Cheektowaga residents, according to a Buffalo State College survey.

The survey results -- comprising a random sampling of 371 Cheektowaga households -- show residents are more concerned about being victims of burglary, larceny and vandalism, than being targets of other crimes such as robbery, rape or assault.

Seventy-four percent of the people surveyed are either somewhat or very concerned about a burglary occurring in their home, while 49 percent are concerned about vandalism to their property.

The percentages were a little surprising, but they make sense and the department will look at ways to better address those worries, said Police Chief Bruce Chamberlin.

"That, interesting enough, is fairly consistent with other cities," Chamberlin said, referring to residents' fears of property crimes.

That is just one of the findings in a Cheektowaga police survey drafted by Buffalo State College professors James R. Gillham and Carl A. Backman.

Earlier this year, Chamberlin and the Cheektowaga Police Advisory Board asked Gillham, an associate professor of criminal justice, and Backman, an associate professor of sociology, to help draft a telephone survey that would give police a better perspective of residents' concerns on town crime and Police Department performance.

Police hope the survey -- which was conducted by Buffalo State criminal justice majors and done at no cost to the town -- will be another tool to help guide community policing efforts.

A few of the survey's findings:

A majority of the residents interviewed felt they did not have a crime problem in their neighborhoods, but are concerned about the crime possibilities.

At least 80 percent of the respondents felt their neighborhoods are free from such problems as drug use and sales, suspicious strangers and intimidation by groups of youth.

On the other hand, they are concerned about the possibility of crime -- specifically property crimes and, to a lesser extent, violent crimes.

Forty percent of the residents interviewed said they are concerned about walking alone in their neighborhoods, 40 percent are worried about being attacked with a weapon and 39 percent are worried about being robbed.

Residents often see police officers in the community, but seldom talk to them.

While 77 percent of the respondents said they see a police officer in the community at least once a month, 90 percent said they never talk to them.

"The training of police officers, and their continued training, should revolve around the social aspects; how to deal with people," said Rebecca Mahoney, chairwoman of the Police Advisory Board, a citizens' advisory group.

Cheektowagans need to understand that police want feedback and input from residents, Gillham said.

"Citizens are not as accustomed to talking with the police as Cheektowaga police would like them to be," Gillham said. "I think the thrust of these data is that citizens need to see police in a new light."

A majority of residents were satisfied and felt they were treated fairly during their encounters with Cheektowaga police.

Eighty-four percent felt they were treated fairly by police during their encounters, while 14 percent felt they were treated unfairly.

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