North Pearl Street residents say they can't help feeling trapped.
Their pretty and historic residential street is hemmed in, they say, between four subsidized apartment buildings along Virginia and Allen streets, a row of vacant Main Street properties owned by the city and a bar known for attracting trouble.
"You can almost map out how we're kind of surrounded by points of concentrated illegal activity," said Elizabeth Licata, co-chairperson of the North Pearl Street Block Club.
Residents describe the once-stable east Allentown neighborhood as slowly losing the battle against drug dealers, who take advantage of negligent landlords and unsuspecting tenants.
The high-profile killing of James J. Mack at 39 N. Pearl St. two weeks ago and the shooting death of Uri Perkins on Virginia Street near Main in December reinforce their fears that unless something changes soon, there won't be much of a neighborhood left.
"If we can't address these negative issues affecting our neighborhood, we can't live here," said block club member Kym Mosgeller.
Residents and police detectives note that two of the five people arrested in Mack's brutal murder -- Antonio Walker and Anthony Giles -- had been arrested in December on trespassing charges in one of the subsidized apartment buildings nearby on Allen Street.
William Lauderdale, another suspect in Mack's death, said he and the others arrested in the murder case were using drugs on the night of the killing.
"These kids were not from the neighborhood," Licata said. "Why did they come here? These kids came out here because they could get drugs and had friends here."
Block club members say they've been working for much of the past decade trying to get more city assistance, more landlord accountability and more police intervention for their neighborhood.
They drew up a report summarizing 911 calls made since 1990 for problem neighborhood properties, noting hundreds of calls for everything from burglary, narcotics and robbery to rape and murder.
The group also has focused attention on Clancy's Pub at 852 Main St., which they consider a gathering place for drug dealers. The Buffalo Police Department has recorded more than 40 emergency calls to the bar in the past five months for incidents such as fights, assaults and larcenies.
Bill Hardick, the owner of Clancy's, said he was unaware the block club had concerns about his establishment. He also said his bar has always had some type of security on Friday and Saturday nights, and that in the past six to eight weeks, he has hired two off-duty police officers to work the weekends.
"Obviously we're doing what we can to keep a handle on things," Hardick said.
Clancy's was where Perkins was hanging out just before he was shot to death in what police believe was a drug-related killing Dec. 10.
Detectives Tim McDonald and Edward Cotter noted that when they arrested Walker and Giles on trespassing charges later that month, the two were in the company of one of Perkins' cousins, who mentioned he was seeking revenge for his relative's death.
North Pearl residents believe that at least a few of the suspects were entrenched in the neighborhood's drug culture.
Despite some assistance from the city, residents say they're still often told by officials they're not a priority because other neighborhoods are in far worse shape.
"This is years and years of complaints, and these landlords are not held accountable," said David Mosgeller.
Licata added, "We really don't want to wait until we look like Beirut."
Now they want a meeting with Mayor Anthony M. Masiello. Niagara Council Member Dominic Bonifacio said he has arranged for the meeting and continues to work with the block club to address the neighborhood's absentee-landlord issues.
"Their problem doesn't seem to be going away," Bonifacio said.
Detectives McDonald and Cotter also said they've been cracking down in the Allentown and Elmwood areas for minor offenses such as loitering, loud music, noise and public drinking to prevent crime from escalating.
"With the resources we have, we're doing our best," McDonald said. "We're only one step in the process."
They agree that more needs to be done to preserve the neighborhood.
"We could sense there were a lot of teenagers and women with children who were placed in those apartment buildings by human services agencies," McDonald said. "Some were mentally unstable. And a lot of these young, streetwise kids who were involved in drug dealing in the East and West Side, they were taking advantage of these people and setting up these little drug dens."
That has to stop, say North Pearl Street residents.
"We love our neighborhood," Licata said, "but these people don't care."