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Grand Island residents, concerned about border security, are asking for a greater police presence at Beaver Island and Buckhorn state parks, given their proximity to Canada.

State lawmakers said they have heard from numerous residents complaining about inadequate police presence at the state parks.

State Sen. Byron Brown, D-Buffalo, and Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo, have forwarded their concerns to state parks police, who say that they, along with the U.S. Border Patrol and the State Police, are on heightened alert all along the river.

"It's a situation that certainly anything can happen, and we recognize there's always a potential for problems," said Chief Vincent Iacovitti of the New York State Park Police in Niagara Falls.

Hoyt said he doesn't think Grand Island is more vulnerable than any other Western New York community to a terrorist attack.

"I don't think there's an imminent threat to the people of Grand Island any more than the people of Buffalo or of Oregon," Hoyt said. "There are certainly far easier places (to enter the United States). This is not a natural or easy crossing for anyone."

Nevertheless, some residents are concerned.

"Given the very real threat of additional terrorist attacks, I would like (around-the=clock) park and marine patrol," Charlotte Jean Yarwood of East River Road wrote to state and federal officials.

Donald R. Palacios, assistant patrol chief of the Buffalo Border Patrol office, said the Border Patrol has been attempting to keep 24-hour watch of the area, seven days a week, since Sept. 11.

Enhanced patrols have included the areas near Grand Island's West River Road area and around Beaver Island State Park, Palacios said.

It would also be helpful to have more agents, he said.

That assistance may be coming with a new anti-terrorism bill, approved last week by Congress, that will provide triple the number of Customs, Immigration and Naturalization, and Border Patrol agents along the U.S.-Canada border. It also means $100 million in additional funding to improve technology and provide new equipment for monitoring the border.

Grand Island should benefit from that, officials say.

"If we get our share of that, it would help us immensely," Palacios said. "We've been spread pretty thin. If they were able to do that, it would give us tremendous coverage in the area."

While the Border Patrol has not made any apprehensions related to terrorism, Palacios said three Czechoslovak citizens were arrested recently attempting to cross the lower Niagara River on a rubber raft and also some individuals trying to cross the International Railroad Bridge in Buffalo.


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