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Rash of burglaries targets restaurants, other businesses

Smash-and-grab burglaries of restaurants and other businesses in recent months have village merchants and police on high alert.

The most recent crime occurred early Monday at the Village Pub on Center Street, where a small pickup was driven into the bar's doors, and two cash registers were stolen.

"It only took 56 seconds," said pub owner Ken Scibetta, who was in the basement of the bar when the break-in occurred just after 4 a.m.

Scibetta estimated the loss and damage at nearly $10,000. He said the cash register contained nearly $3,600.

"He [the perpetrator] knew the exact layout of the cash registers. He knew to bring wire strips with him to cut the wires off the backs of the cash registers. He knew there was no one [supposed to be] in the restaurant," Scibetta said.

He said he was in the basement preparing for the next day's operations wheen he heard the crash.

"You see me [in the security tape] walking by the door two minutes before the truck crashed through the door," Scibetta said.

The thief, Scibetta said, was was a younger, white male, about 6-foot-2 and wearing baggy clothes.

He said this is the second time in as many weeks the business has been targeted and the perpetrator appears to be the same man.

The first smash-and-grab attempt, however, was unsuccessful. A window in the basement was broken, and by the time the thief made it to the first floor, the alarm was "screeching" and the thief fled, Scibetta said.

"It's Center Street in Lewiston. We rarely have any crime," Scibetta said.

Lewiston Police Chief Christopher Salada said additional night patrols have been assigned to the area.

Steelhead's Irish Pub and Restaurant, also on Center Street, was burglarized two weeks ago, also after closing, on a Sunday night. A safe was stolen from the basement.

Tin Pan Alley, on Cayuga Street, was burglarized on last October, when cash drawers were taken.

Councilman Ernest Palmer, former chief of detectives in Niagara Falls who is head of the Lewiston Police Board, said at least two village businesses, which he declined to name, were also burglarized.

"We are concerned that there may be some kind of an organized group or ring doing this, but right now there is not necessarily any evidence to indicate that," Palmer said. "We don't know if they are related."

During a Town Board meeting Monday, Palmer said state police and Niagara County sheriff's investigators have joined the investigations.

"When you get a rash of similar crimes within a short period of time in one area," he said, "you definitely take notice and do some proactive things to stop them from happening."

e-mail: nfischer@buffnews.com

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