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Allentown residents, police chief meet to discuss district problems

A few concerned Allentown residents Thursday met with Central District Police Chief Donna Berry to talk over crime problems in the neighborhood.

Outside of a few break-ins or an occasional mugging, most agreed that the crimes were mostly nuisance activities: loitering, panhandling, graffiti and some unresponsive landlords. It's a great community, they said.

Berry, who not only commands the district precinct that covers Allentown but also lives there, agreed with them.

An increase in the number of involved citizens and more participation in block clubs would only make Allentown and other neighborhoods in the city better, Berry said.

"A huge part of why Buffalo has got such heart is because people try to work together to make things better. Really, they do. It's just these little nuisance things that we have to try to eliminate. And I think, if we got people employment, that would be a big part," Berry told the handful of residents meeting at the Allentown Association, 14 Allen St.

Paul Morgan of the Irving Place Block Club called the meeting after he and some other neighbors became concerned over a rash of burglaries and some incidences of aggressive panhandling.

Berry said she has assigned officers from her district to go after panhandlers, when she has the manpower to spare.

"A lot of time, the people that are panhandling have histories and they have warrants out on them. If we don't catch them doing the panhandling, we arrest them on the warrant," Berry said.

Even those who are arrested for panhandling are unlikely to get the book thrown at them in City Court, Berry cautioned.

"It's just unfortunate that people have to beg, and most of it is drug-related. You know, for little [drug] fixes," Berry said.

Barry Fink of Park Street advised that a simple solution is to not give panhandlers money.

"If you don't give them money, they won't stay there," Fink said.

Berry said part of the nature of living in an urban area requires vigilance.

"I feel like we have to take care of those people that cannot take care of themselves. Many of them are drug-addicted or mentally ill, so they have all these different issues. An urban setting is easiest for them . . . in that there is a high concentration of social service agencies in Allentown, but I think people feel comfortable here," she said.

"It is diverse, which makes it great, but I think we just need to set the standards as a neighborhood that we won't tolerate certain behaviors," Berry added.

e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com

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