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Residents' help sought in thefts

Plant bandits have struck Martin Luther King Park for the fourth time this summer, and their pillaging is spurring local leaders to seek help from neighborhood residents.

The latest theft occurred Wednesday, when more than 60 flowering plants were removed from the Cottage Garden in the historic park designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.

The thief or thieves know what they're doing, said Masten Council Member Demone A. Smith. These deeds aren't random acts of vandalism where mischief-makers yank flowers out of beds.

"They're either being replanted in somebody's yard, or someone is reselling them," Smith lamented.

Neighborhood activists, business leaders and officials from the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy are scheduled to hold an 11 a.m news conference today to discuss the problem.

Residents who live near the park located in the Fillmore-Best neighborhood are being encouraged to report any suspicious activity.

Smith said the culprits clearly have no regard for the neighborhood.

"There are some people who don't want the East Side to have anything," Smith said Thursday. "They have a very warped way of thinking."

New surveillance systems are being considered, Smith said. Police officers conduct routine drive-throughs in the park, the lawmaker added.

The Western New York Black Chamber of Commerce has been among the groups active in helping to revitalize the popular park. Chamber President Lumon Ross is expected to attend today's news conference, where officials will also address another persistent problem in the park.

Vehicles that drive on the grass in certain sections of the park have created unsightly ruts. Repairing the damaged turf has cost the Olmsted Park Conservancy thousands of dollars. In one incident back in January, a four-wheeler entered the park and did doughnuts on the lawn.

The city owns the Olmsted parks system, but it has hired the conservancy to maintain the parks and attached parkways.