Monday's drug sweep in the Bailey-Kensington area was intended to force those arrested to post bail and eventually lead to felony convictions and jail terms.
But of the 22 people arraigned Monday, 10 were released on their own recognizance.
That has angered a group of Bailey-Amherst businessmen who sought a "carte blanche" no-bail policy in drug cases.
"We're pressing the Police Department to try to stop" the street sales of drugs, but once cases go to court "it's out of the hands of the police," said Eric Lubstorf, a manager at the Bailey Slipper Shop on Bailey Avenue and a member of the Bailey-Amherst District Management Association.
Judges "have to start waking up" about drug problems, he said.
"I live in the neighborhood, and I've been fighting this stuff for a long time, and people no longer want to shop in the city" because of drug and street crime, said Lubstorf.
Releasing those arrested without bail because of their lack of criminal records was "nonsense," he said, adding that it "just means they were lucky enough not to get caught" selling drugs on street corners.
Although the district attorney's office demanded $20,000 bail each for the 19 people arraigned Monday before Erie County Judge John V. Rogowski, the judge released 10 of the younger ones on their own recognizance.
Rogowski insisted Tuesday he had to handle each drug case individually since those arrested had been indicted separately and weren't charged as members of a gang.
Erie County District Attorney Kevin M. Dillon declined to comment.
Bail helps to ensure that defendants will return to court for further criminal proceedings, and the young
people released Monday on their own recognizance had parents or family members in court, the judge noted.
Bail cannot be used as a "threat" against a someone under arrest because it is not to be used for "punitive purposes," Rogowski said.
Several Bailey-Amherst area businessmen were in court Monday for the drug arraignments, and Rogowski said "they have good reason to be concerned" about the situation in their area.
But he insisted he could not punish purported first-time offenders and those with "minor" criminal records.
Court officials said only 22 people were arrested and arraigned Monday before Rogowski and in Buffalo City Court. Bail was set in 12 cases, and one of those in City Court also was released on his own recognizance.
Although Buffalo police said the sweep targeted 31 suspects, including nine fugitives, three of the cases involved misdemeanor allegations.
Detectives had worked with two investigators from the Erie County district attorney's office to obtain the warrants.
Criminal sale of any controlled substance is a felony, but possession can be a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the amount and type of drug.
"We felt if we made felony arrests, these people would do some hard time, 18 months to two years," said Capt. Lawrence Ramunno, commander of the Kensington Station.