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POLICE TARGET BUFFALO PLACE, BUT FOOT TRAFFIC IS FLAT 24 ARE ARRESTED IN CRACKDOWN

Downtown business and property owners, who for months have lobbied for a more visible police presence on city streets, were treated to a show of force -- literally -- at Wednesday's Buffalo Place Inc. meeting.

A handful of policemen and women, headed by Deputy Commissioner Rocco J. Diina, gave the Buffalo Place board and staff an update on how the so-called Downtown Initiative is working.

The initiative, in place since March 14, is designed to put officers on downtown streets from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. Up to a dozen officers will patrol the Central Business District exclusively, on foot, scooter, bicycle and patrol car.

"The business community wasn't satisfied with the way things were. This is our response," Diina said.

The initiative's three priorities, according to the deputy commissioner, include:

High visibility. "We've been in every restaurant for lunch, we've stopped after work to talk with building tenants," Diina said.

Strict law enforcement. "You break the law, you're arrested," Diina said. Since March 14, the police have made 24 arrests, including six for panhandling and four each for prostitution and unauthorized use of a vehicle.

Communication with the business community and the area in general.

The show of strength downtown was cheered by the Buffalo Place board. "This is the most important thing to happen downtown in the last five years," said Richard T. Reinhard, Buffalo Place executive director.

Ellicott District Councilwoman Barbara Miller-Williams, a board member, knows the importance of having police on the street: She's a six-year department veteran, currently on a one-year leave of absence.

"I remember as a rookie being out on the street. It's important that we go back to that concept. It lends a sense of security to the people," Ms. Miller-Williams said.

Mayor Masiello called the Downtown Initiative a back-to-basics approach needed if downtown is going to retain and attract new business.

"If we're going to draw new businesses downtown, people have to feel safe; this is responding to our needs," Masiello said.

The Buffalo Place board also was given an update on the downtown promotion and maintenance organization's marketing efforts.

Imagifest, previously an event to encourage children to express their creativity, is being replaced this year with Buffalo Heritage Day.

Slated for Saturday, May 13, it will feature a number of tours, exhibits, activities and entertainment offerings designed to highlight Buffalo's heritage, culture and architecture.

This year's Country Market at Buffalo Place runs for 23 consecutive Thursdays beginning May 25. Located along Main Street in front of Main Place Mall and the former AM&A's building, the market will feature 22 vendors, up from 20 in 1994.

The popular summer entertainment event, Thursday at the Square, will run for 14 consecutive Thursdays beginning June 1.

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