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Lawmakers look to crack down on crime

Crime concerns dominated debate at Tuesday's Common Council meeting as officials discussed ways to target illegal guns, law-breaking stores and noisy people who create intolerable living conditions. The Council unanimously approved a tougher noise law that would make it easier for police officers to arrest violators and charge them with offenses that could carry jail time. There are ambiguities in the existing law as to whether officers have the power to arrest people who ignore the noise law by blaring car stereos, staging loud house parties or engaging in other ear-splitting actions.

Council President David A. Franczyk, the sponsor, thinks making it clear that violators face possible arrest and penalties of up to 15 days in jail and $1,500 fines will improve the quality of life in neighborhoods. He's also betting that aggressive enforcement will uncover other offenses, including drugs and weapons.

Concerns about illegal guns surfaced repeatedly Tuesday, one week after two Buffalo police officers were shot by an assailant who had an illegal gun. Franczyk urged the Police Department to explore new ways to get more weapons off the streets.

Lawmakers sent to committee a bill that asks city lawyers to look into suing out-of-state gun shops in cases where illegal weapons found in Buffalo can be traced to specific dealers. Sponsor Antoine M. Thompson of Masten said New York City already has launched such an offensive, adding that some cases have resulted in settlements and increased scrutiny of the gun shops in question. Thompson said the move could be expanded to include gun dealers who operate locally and in other parts of the state.

The Council also wants attorneys to review the legality of creating a tenant eviction database that would give property owners a new tool for avoiding problem tenants.

One of the more unusual issues the Council explored Tuesday involved reports that some local stores might be breaking laws by performing a popular form of cosmetic dentistry. University Council Member Bonnie E. Russell said she knows of at least one clothing store in her district that sells and fits gold tooth caps, known as "grills." Russell believes the procedure violates state health laws unless it's performed in a licensed medical facility.

She believes a local law banning cosmetic dental work outside licensed facilities would make it easier to target and shut down violators.

In other business Tuesday:

* Lawmakers unanimously approved a plan that will let Mayor Byron W. Brown change the title of the city's finance chief, expand the job's powers and pay a yet-to-be appointed commissioner $104,000 a year. The post currently pays $83,000, and Comptroller Andrew A. SanFilippo claims Brown is breaking the law by making the change without first getting SanFilippo's approval. The city Law Department claims SanFilippo's charges are baseless.

* The Council voted to give property owners a few extra days to file challenges to their new assessments. Instead of having until Jan. 2 to submit complaints, the Council has extended the deadline until Jan. 5. Hearings will be held in January and early February.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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