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Police strike force targets hot spots in city, cites 145 arrests in 10 days

A multiagency police strike force has made 145 arrests and seized nearly $2,500 in cash during the first 10 days of an effort to target crime hot spots across Buffalo.

Mayor Byron W. Brown and other officials announced the results of the program and their interest in seeing it continue at a news conference Thursday at Grant Street and Garner Avenue on the West Side.

He was joined by representatives of the Buffalo Police Department, the Erie County Sheriff's Office and State Police.

"This is sending out a very strong message to the crime element," the mayor said. "Don't do it because we're watching, and our police officers are out there, and it's just a matter of time before we arrest you and put you in jail."

With the sheriff's Air One helicopter -- an integral part of the strike force -- flying overhead, Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda noted that since the offensive started, four guns have been seized and 46 vehicles impounded.

Derenda said the high visibility of the operation "really hampers the criminal element" doing business on the streets of neighborhoods all across the city.

"This is a very aggressive operation going after guns, drugs and even minor crime," he said.

Lt. Kevin Barnas, head of the State Police contingent, and Lt. Bert Dunn, day watch commander for the Sheriff's Office, and Sgt. Joseph Belden, head of the sheriff's detail on the strike force, said routine stops for traffic violations have been generating more serious charges.

Many of the 145 arrests generated so far in the citywide operation -- which shifts from neighborhood to neighborhood without warning, based on an ongoing statistical crime analysis -- involved weapons, drug and other charges.

In the strike force's first days, 409 traffic summonses were issued by the 20 to 30 officers assigned to the unit each day, while 20 vehicles were tagged for parking violations, 12 summonses were handed out for city ordinance violations and $2,442 in cash was seized from suspects, according to officials.

Common Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr. of the North District said he is glad to see "more police on the streets" as a result of the summer program. He said he has been getting many calls from constituents who appreciate the greater police presence.

During the news conference, a businessman yelled to Golombek from his pickup truck, urging the lawmaker to have police concentrate on "the tons of drugs" being sold on nearby Herkimer Street.

Buffalo Police Capt. Patrick Roberts, head of the strike force, said at least 20 city officers, including four lieutenants, are assigned to the unit each day, along with five sheriff's deputies and six or seven state troopers. All are familiar with the city, he said, and backup is available when needed.

"This is a highly mobile operation designed to catch the crime elements off guard and keep them thinking," Brown said.

During the news conference, area residents expressed appreciation for the effort.

Stephanie Krueger, of Bird Avenue, said the combined law enforcement operation is getting under way at just the right time.

"The streets are hot right now," she said.