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Robber gets nothing at coin laundry

An upscale coin laundry on Main Street that was robbed three times last year was hit again this week by a gunman who frightened workers and customers before escaping empty-handed.

The attempted robbery at Matt's Lake Effect Laundry at 2311 Main St. occurred two days before the robbery of the Wilson Farms on Parkside Avenue near Delaware Park in the gateway neighborhood blocks away.

In response, owner Matt O'Connor said he has received assurances from Mayor Byron W. Brown that the police will boost their presence in the area around the store.

"They are taking this seriously," said O'Connor, who opened the laundry featuring fireplaces, Web access and a cafe in 2005.

Buffalo police also say they will consider installing a surveillance video camera on that section of Main Street.

While urging O'Connor to consider hiring a security guard at night, the head of the neighborhood association, said news of the crimes is troubling.

"I don't know if beefing up the patrols would help. I don't know what the answer is to it," said Kathleen Peterson, Parkside Community Association executive director. "I think it's a crime of opportunity."

O'Connor invested $1.2 million in his luxury coin laundry, which opened to fanfare four years ago.

The laundry has Italian ceramic tile floors, upholstered furniture, gas fireplace, 12 television sets, and coffee and Internet cafes.

The trouble started when the laundry was robbed at gunpoint Feb. 5 and Feb. 14, 2008, and again at knifepoint April 2.

Dayquain Trent, 16 at the time, was charged with all three robberies, and he is believed to remain in custody.

In the recent robbery attempt, which occurred at 7:50 p.m. Monday, a would-be robber armed with a rifle entered and demanded money.

He left without any cash but shook up the staff and 13 customers in the business at the time.

One employee working Monday night had been threatened at gunpoint in one of the earlier robberies. He quit his job after the latest incident.

Brown reached out to O'Connor after the three 2008 robberies, and O'Connor said he talked to Brown again Friday afternoon.

The mayor told O'Connor that police would conduct more patrols and make a point of getting out of their vehicles. Brown spokesman Peter Culter did not return two phone messages Friday seeking comment.

O'Connor said he was pleased the mayor is taking such an interest in the situation. He noted its value as a gateway business district and the educational and cultural institutions there.

"You're not going to make people feel comfortable, unless they see a presence," O'Connor said.

O'Connor also would like to see the city install a blue-light surveillance camera nearby.

Michael J. DeGeorge, Buffalo Police spokesman, said police will consider this, if it's deemed necessary based on criminal activity there.

Peterson, the neighborhood group official, said she feels the incidents at the laundry and Wednesday at the Parkside Wilson Farms store, were crimes of opportunity more than indications of a wider problem.

e-mail: swatson@buffnews.com

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