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POLICE URGED TO INCREASE FOOT PATROLS

Increasing police foot patrols would prevent crime, strengthen business districts and forge closer bonds between officers and the community, neighborhood activists said Thursday.

Deputy Police Commissioner Robert T. Chella met with Common Council members and leaders of several community groups to discuss crime-prevention strategies. The main focus was a resolution sponsored by Masten Council Member Antoine M. Thompson that calls on officers to dedicate two hours of their 10-hour shifts to walking business strips, parks and residential streets.

Police officials said they have some walking patrols, adding that efforts might be enhanced this summer if staffing levels permit. But at this juncture, Chella said, the department cannot commit to a plan that would have officers spend one-fifth of their shifts on foot patrols.

Some neighborhood leaders praised the Police Department for swiftly responding to problems, but they said crime-prevention efforts need to be enhanced.

"The more uniforms on the streets, the better it is," said Anthony F. Pawlak, president of the Kaisertown Coalition. "The deterrence will be there."

Eileen Nowak, a business owner in the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood, said crimes are taking place day and night on some street corners. "I've seen guns being handed out and drugs being sold," she said.

Representatives from the West Side Community Collaborative and the Chippewa Entertainment District Association also pushed for foot patrols. In the past, property owners along the popular Chippewa strip chipped in to pay off-duty police officers to provide extra security on Friday and Saturday nights in the summer and during special events.

But Mary Ann Moselle, a liaison for the association, said future patrols are in jeopardy. The group did not receive a grant that it had hoped to obtain, she said, and there have been problems collecting money from some businesses that committed to help pay for last year's patrols.

Some Council members said they understand the personnel pressures faced by the Police Department as the size of the force continues to shrink. But they said they view foot patrols as a key tool for preventing crime.

"We can no longer talk about compromising public safety for the sake of a dollar," said Ellicott Council Member Brian C. Davis.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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