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200 turn out to map anti-crime fight

Residents came out in force Thursday night, angry about a recent rash of vandalism and thefts. And they are ready to do something about it.

About 200 people crammed into the tiny Newfane Town Hall, spilling over into the hallway, peeking through doorways and lining up around the lobby to show their support for a Newfane neighborhood watch group.

Countryside Estates residents, who have been especially hard hit, organized Thursday's event. But people living in the hamlet near the mobile home park and residents of a nearby senior citizens mobile home park also were on hand.

Denise Rivers, who led the discussion, reminded residents that they weren't there to rehash the issues but to make changes.

She also made a point of having audience members introduce themselves. Many later admitted they really didn't know their neighbors and were meeting people for the first time.

"We are a neighborhood not just a manufactured home park," Rivers said.

Councilman Robert Petit noted that the town already has a youth curfew law, which, Town Attorney James Sansone said it plans to update to make sure it covers public and restricted property such as roads and homes in mobile home parks.

Roger Spurback of the Niagara Falls Block Clubs Association told those at the meeting to "give themselves a round of applause" for the turnout.

"It's about having 500 sets of ears and eyes and not being afraid to write it down and give crime tips to police," he said. "A lot of time we just sit back and watch TV, but we also love our community. It's about knowing your neighbor, saying hello, see what senior citizen or child needs help and then going out of our way to help."

Debbie Miller, vice president of the New York State Parks Residence Home Owners and president of the (Lockport) Woodlands Homeowners Association, said people should not live cooped up in their houses, but in their neighborhoods, sitting outside and watching what is going on.

She recommended brighter lights, locking doors and reporting crimes.

Niagara County Sheriff's Capt. James Voutour agreed, saying, "Shame on you if you don't lock your cars. Crime goes to the path of least resistance."

He called block clubs the eyes and ears for police.

Voutour said he has increased patrols in the Newfane area to as many as five cars from one and added foot patrols.

He said deputies already are interviewing some possible suspects and hope to make arrests soon.

The group agreed to meet again in two weeks but will seek a more spacious location, such as the Miller Hose fire hall on Main Street.

e-mail: nfischer@buffnews.com

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