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University Heights improvements noted But residents say more must be done to make UB area safe

In the half year since a University at Buffalo student was left paralyzed in a beating on Main Street, residents living around the South Campus say they have seen some improvements in their community.

The university has become more involved, and the number of wild house parties, which can lead to fights and attract criminals, has decreased, they said.

But community members who gathered Tuesday evening in Gloria J. Parks Community Center for the meeting of the University Heights Collaborative said much more needs to be done.

"I think student parties are a problem," Joan Hackett told the UB and police officials attending the meeting. "But it's deeper than that."

Several high-profile crimes have followed the beating of UB student Michael Bliss.

In June, Thomas M. Olszowy, 60, survived being shot in the chest in the backyard of his West Winspear Avenue home.

In the first two weeks of this semester, two young women -- one a student, the other a nonstudent -- were raped on South Campus in separate incidents. Then, a former student living on Custer Avenue suffered a head injury during a large party on a street where many students live.

UB officials have taken several measures to try to improve student safety and behavior off campus. The student life department was rearranged to deal more directly with off-campus issues.

The university purchased three security cameras to provide stream live video to the Buffalo Police Department.

Four thousand fliers were distributed off campus advising students on how to be better neighbors and informing residents how to complain about bad student behavior. In addition, Buffalo police have established two South Campus area details.

Residents say that, with more student housing being built on and around UB's North Campus in Amherst, fewer students are renting in University Heights.

That may contribute to the decrease in parties but has left properties vacant and vulnerable to break-ins.

"We're left with a skeleton," Hackett said, pointing out that her street has five empty homes.

In other cases, those who have moved in have been less-than-exemplary citizens who have preyed on homeowners and students.

Celeste Mondal, who owns five houses in University Heights and rents to students, said three of her tenants were mugged last summer. Her neighbor's home, she noted, also has been broken into four times since June.

She said she believes they were targeted by people who have moved into the neighborhood and added that "the students need to be protected."

Police Capt. David Stabler, who is assigned to the University District, confirmed that a number of those arrested in the area have current addresses in the neighborhood but that records show they have moved from more crime-prone neighborhoods.

Mondal said meetings such as Tuesday night's are critical to keeping her the university area safe.

"If we don't do something, we are going to lose this," she said.

e-mail: mbecker@buffnews.com

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