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Seminar offers tips on issues of security Falls merchant cites pushers' phone use

A Pine Avenue Laundromat owner said she had a very good reason to attend the Pine Avenue Business Association safety and security seminar Monday night.

"I was the one with the rifle stuck to my forehead," 64-year-old Barbara Greenman said.

Greenman said even though the suspects in a recent series of armed robberies in September had been caught, she still must deal with drug dealers in the laundry parking lot who often come in to use the pay phone.

After the series of robberies last month, everyone in the Pine Avenue Business Association wanted to talk to the police, said Mary Zacher, the association's executive director.

Association President Philip Bodkin said he was disappointed with low turnout during the seminar, but not discouraged.

"We decided to offer this seminar based on input and concern about public safety for both residents and businesses," Bodkin said. "We are not discouraged and will hold this again to communicate and offer service and advice."

Niagara Falls Police Superintendent John R. Chella said there was good news, with a 6.6 percent decrease in overall crime in the city since last year, but he said burglary was up 8.3 percent.

"When we analyze the common trends, we find that in a high percentage of these burglaries the suspects are invited in to socialize, to party or do drugs. They are not breaking in in the middle of the night or using force," Chella said.

He said police have hired an intelligence officer to gather information and a crime analyst who breaks down the month, day, time and location.

The department also has formed a burglary task force.

"Whatever people want, let them take it," Chella recommended. "Money and items are replaceable."

He also suggested business owners put cash registers in open, well-lit spaces so officers driving by can see what's going on when they look into the windows.

"Lighting is your number one ally," Chella said.

Pat Herberger, who does legal work for victims of identity theft, spoke to the group about avoiding being victimized.

"It's not a physical crime, but it can do a lot of damage," Herberger said.

She said hopefully everyone, including business owners, was shredding documents.

"A thief could look in the dumpsters of a business," she warned. "You have to be careful what you throw out. A business owner could face thousands of dollars in fines if they don't protect [a customer's] identity."

She said personal information can also be found on sale on the Internet.

"A Secret Service agent once said, 'Why would a criminal go in a bank with a gun when they can go on the Internet and make more money, and it's even safer,' " Herberger said.

She said never give out your Social Security number or personal information when someone calls you unsolicited on the phone. She also said people can stop unsolicited credit card offers by calling 888-5-OPTOUT.

e-mail: nfischer@buffnews.com

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