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LANGFIELD CRIME GETS POLICE ATTENTION

A 60-year-old woman told a police investigator earlier this week that she hadn't been out of her Langfield housing development home for two weeks because of a recent spike in crime.

That led the Buffalo Police Department to send approximately 50 officers into the area Friday to help stem the crime wave. While there were no arrests, police said they did get information for ongoing investigations.

"The overall goal is to identify any gang members or 'players' in the area," Deputy Police Commissioner Robert T. Chella said. "We also want to seek the community's participation in helping us with these criminal matters."

Several residents attended an afternoon news conference in the Martha Mitchell Community Center, in the housing development.

"We want you to know we're not going to let criminals take charge of your neighborhood," Police Commissioner Rocco J. Diina said.

The "Sweep Clean" operation followed reports that a turf war between two factions of the Gangster Killer Bloods gang had sparked four recent shootings -- one of them deadly -- there and in other parts of the city. At least some of the people involved in the turf war live or hang out in the Langfield area.

Early Friday afternoon, officers from the city and Buffalo Housing Authority police forces, State Police and Division of Parole, the FBI and Erie County's Department of Probation descended on the area, targeting people hanging out on street corners, asking for identification and looking for possible weapons, drugs or pending arrest warrants.

Leonard Williams, vice president of the tenants group in the adjoining Kenfield Homes, was among those at the news conference.

"After the drama of the last week, some of us had become frightened," Williams said. "We find that you do care."

"On behalf of the tenants, I want to say thank you very much. We appreciate you being here," Williams said. "We were glad to see the cavalry."

Elaine Blyden, executive director of the nearby Bob Lanier Center, which runs after-school programs for children, said: "Safety is our No. 1 concern."

"Parents, keep an eye on your kids," urged Blyden, noting that there had been gunfire in the area during the afternoon.

To the officers, she said: "I received several calls letting me know you guys were out here in force, and I think it was very comforting to the tenants."

The sweep included plainclothes and uniformed officers. Some of them sought the help of residents .

"We went door-to-door, handing out pamphlets and asking people to help us with any current investigations over there, as well as any other criminal activity in the area," Chella said.

At the news conference, Chella reported: "We have generated information already from people who are willing to talk to us. I think we have been well received."

Besides seeking residents' help, top Buffalo police officials want community members in high-crime areas to know they haven't been forgotten.

"This is a beautiful neighborhood; this is a beautiful center," said Diina, reassuring residents that the "vast majority" of the gun-related violence "is criminal-on-criminal activity."

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com and jhabuda@buffnews.com

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