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Buffalo seeks state help in crackdown on illegal activities at neighborhood stores

Frustrated over illegal activities at some neighborhood grocery and deli stores, the Common Council on Tuesday asked if the State of New York could help out.

If a business violates state laws or regulations, by doing such things as selling loose cigarettes or stolen merchandise, the Council would like the state to possibly pull any state license the business has – a lottery license or a license to sell beer, for example.

A measure introduced by Lovejoy Council Member Richard A. Fontana asks the Western New York legislative delegation in the State Senate and Assembly to examine the issue. The resolution was unanimously approved by the Council, with most of its nine members asking to be a co-sponsor on the measure, recounting problems in their own Council districts.

The support for the resolution appears to be an indication of the frustration Council members have had with some neighborhood groceries and delis breaking laws, and, in the process, encouraging criminal activity.

Without naming any specific stores or delis, Fontana said some business owners he has approached for selling loose cigarettes or drug paraphernalia tell him they didn’t know such activities were prohibited by law.

“The stores are catering to drug users,” Fontana said. “They have big supplies of glass pipes. We known what they are for.”

“We don’t want to close stores down, but we don’t want them to be a problem in our communities,” said University Council Member Rasheed N.C. Wyatt.