Lighting improvements will likely be made this year along the Kensington-Bailey business strip, in what University District advocates hope will be the first step toward developing a comprehensive anti-crime plan.
Other goals include pushing for Buffalo police beat patrols and increased visibility of security officers assigned to the University at Buffalo South Campus.
The Kensington-Bailey Shopping District, a special taxing district that raises money to help maintain the commercial strip, already has earmarked some funds for lighting enhancements. City officials recently signaled a willingness to help finance a project that would install new exterior lights near an estimated 20 businesses along Bailey.
"We believe that lighting is a pretty good deterrent to crime," said Robert A. Cohen, president of the special district and owner of United Men's Fashions at 3082 Bailey. "We plan on doing a detailed survey to identify the darkest spots so we know where new fixtures should be installed."
Peter K. Cutler, a spokesman for Mayor Anthony M. Masiello, said the administration is likely to support any reasonable request for city assistance. He noted that the city recently played a role in enhancing lighting along Main Street in the Theater District.
"We agree that there's a correlation between improved lighting and safety," Cutler said. "But we need to talk with people in the district to understand exactly how they plan on moving this project forward."
Cohen said details and budgets are still being finalized, but initial plans call for installing lights that would automatically activate each evening. Individual property owners who would benefit from the new fixtures would agree to pay the added electricity costs, expenses that Cohen said would be relatively small.
Members of the University District Anti-Crime Task Force also want to see the Buffalo Police Department begin foot patrols in the Kensington-Bailey area, a request that has never moved beyond the idea stage.
"It's a bit disheartening that we can't have beat patrols become part of the Police Department's regular activities," Cohen said. "We have a great district with a tremendous amount of potential. We've already made strides, but we don't want to lose ground."
Deputy Police Commissioner Mark Blankenberg said the department understands merchants' concerns and is willing to work with them to find ways to enhance public safety.
"But foot patrols aren't always the answer. Foot patrols make people feel good, but they're not that effective in some situations," Blankenberg said. "We need to outline whatever problems there are, then take appropriate actions."
John Greia, director of UB's University Police, said he will discuss with his staff the possibility of enhancing the visibility of security crews in the Kensington-Bailey district by having cars vary their routes to and from the campus. But he said there is insufficient staff to implement any regular patrol duty in the Kensington-Bailey area.
For several years, the taxing district has hired off-duty police officers to patrol the commercial strip. Cohen said the effort has been "an enormous success," based on feedback received from business owners in surveys. But he said there continue to be some nuisance-related problems, including loitering by groups of young people.
"It's basically the same kind of problem you find in some suburban malls," Cohen said. "But a lot of those problems never get reported, because a lot of people are out to protect the suburban image."