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Mayor wants more police patrols, end to canal violence

News that vandals tore out some 50 bricks from the Canalside walkway and caused $1,000 worth of damage last weekend led Mayor Robert Ortt to call for a strict, swift plan to put a stop to vandalism and rowdiness at Gateway Harbor.

The mayor proposes more police patrols near the Sweeney Street harbor area -- where new lofts have opened and an upscale restaurant is under construction -- to curb the rowdiness, from the spray painting of graffiti to property being tossed into the canal.

"If we're going to make that area the destination we want it to be, I want to address this," said Ortt, addressing a workshop meeting of the Common Council ON Tuesday evening.

"The harbor is supposed to be attracting people," he said later. "Something's gotta give."

As Kissling Interests continues to develop its multimillion-dollar building project with lofts, businesses and a restaurant in an old typewriter factory on Sweeney Street, the safety and appearance of the Canalside area need to be kept up, Ortt said.

He also proposed enlisting help from auxiliary police and suggested one of their police cars could remain parked near the harbor at night as a deterrent.

He would like the police to increase patrols, perhaps on bicycle. Seasonal workers who do Canalside maintenance would be asked to report suspicious activities to their supervisors. A suggestion to add brighter lights also was discussed.

When Ortt began looking into the vandalism problem this week, he said, he was dismayed to discover how widespread it was.

Decorative trash bins removed last year are in storage because they had been tossed into the water. A tourist information kiosk with a smashed window is being stored in the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum for safekeeping.

"It blows my mind that we bought garbage cans -- nice garbage cans -- and we're keeping them in storage," Ortt said.

Of the canal area, he said, "We're not making all it can be because of some adolescents who are misbehaving? That's the wrong answer to me. We're going to put our nice stuff down there and make sure we protect it."

e-mail: mkearns@buffnews.com