Residents of the 400 block of Potomac Avenue say they are upset and disappointed a symbol that had come to represent community beautification and unity was stolen overnight Tuesday from their neighborhood.
Now they fear it is possible that the 200-pound, bronze-colored iron sculpture of a buffalo with "Potomac 400" cut out in the center of it might be sold as scrap metal or end up in some college students' house as a filched furnishing.
The buffalo was taken at about 3 a.m. from its berth in the middle of a flower bed at the corner of Potomac and Richmond avenues.
"My neighbor heard them dismantling it in the middle of the night, and so he stuck his head out a bedroom window and told the three college-aged kids to put it down and they said 'no' and started walking down Richmond toward Forest Avenue with it," said Paul Springer, a member of the Potomac 400 Block Club.
The neighbor quickly dressed and began chasing the thieves, who dropped the sculpture, Springer said. "He managed to drag it back."
But when the neighbor, who asked that his name be withheld, awoke later Tuesday morning, the buffalo was gone.
Northwest District police have been notified and are investigating the theft.
What makes it particularly upsetting is that the sculpture was purchased with a $1,000 grant secured by Niagara Council Member David A. Rivera last spring and installed during a ceremony.
"These vandals obviously live in the neighborhood or in walking distance. They did not appear to have a truck," Springer said.
He speculated that one of two motives could have led to the theft.
"These kids either thought it would be a cool trophy to have or they're just looking for some quick cash and are trading it in as scrap metal," he said.
Springer and other neighbors say they are not entirely discouraged.
"Either I think we are going to find it or we'll purchase another," he said. "We'll make sure it is secure on all four sides, and short of someone getting a hacksaw, it ain't going anywhere."
Anyone with information is asked to call Northwest District police at 851-4413.