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SHOOTOUT IN HOUSING DEVELOPMENT IS 4TH IN 5 DAYS

Gunfire crackled Saturday afternoon for at least the fourth time in the past five days in the Kenfield/Langfield Housing Development.

According to police, two groups of men armed with shotguns and AK-47s engaged in a shootout near Langfield Drive and Tower Street at about 3:20 p.m.

Apparently, no one was hit.

Two men were shot in separate incidents in the same neighborhood Friday, and on Tuesday, police said an estimated 40 shots were fired during an incident in the same area.

The shootings prompted a veteran lieutenant in the Buffalo Police Northeast District to say it would be a major mistake for the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority to move forward with plans to shut down its 26-member police force.

"I'm 100 percent against the idea of shutting down their department, and I think every officer in this district is against it," Lt. Thomas Leatherbarrow said Saturday night. "It's going to put a big strain on our department, and the people living in housing projects are not going to get the same level of police protection that they're used to getting."

In a move that has upset many public housing residents in the city, the BMHA has announced it will eliminate its police force on July 1, due to budget problems. The plan calls for Buffalo police to handle the calls now answered by the housing police.

The recent shootings are believed to be related to a feud between rival crime gangs, according to Leatherbarrow and BMHA Police Officer Craige Leone, who heads the housing authority's police union.

"The violence is starting now with the nicer weather, and it's only going to get worse after we're gone," Leone said.

"Housing Authority officers have done a tremendous job," Leatherbarrow said. "They know the problems and the trouble spots. It's going to be a big loss to the city when they're gone."

e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.com

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