Sometimes cleaning up crime in a troubled district takes ingenuity and, in the case of the South District, the creativity to take a page from an old book.
The result is criminals are being evicted from one apartment and then another and another, forcing them to hopscotch across town until they tire of the game and leave the area. With the nuisance gone, certain crimes go with it. Funny how that works.
An article by News reporter Jane Kwiatkowski laid out this crime-fighting technique, credited to Buffalo Police Chief Patrick M. Pascall. New as South District chief in 2010, he first looked at problem addresses before reaching back into history and dusting off a century-old state statute called the Bawdy House Law, originally enacted to shut down brothels.
Bawdy is an understated description for the outrageous and illegal behavior that plagues many urban neighborhoods today, this one bounded on the west by Lake Erie, on the east by Lackawanna and West Seneca, on the north by William Street and extending as far south as the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens.
Pascall decided to smoke the criminals out of their resting places, and he got the landlords to help or face a $5,000 fine. The big fines were enough to catch the attention of the landlords, whether local or absentee, and the evictions started.
Since 2011, more than 150 problem tenants have been evicted based on drug sales, illegal weapons, loud music, frequent parties and excessive fights.
The accompanying drop in certain crimes – vehicle thefts, robberies, burglaries, assaults – over the past year or so tells the story. Crime, of course, isn’t solved. Far from it: The incidence of rapes in the district has increased from 16 to 18, although there were no homicides in the district from April 2012 to March 2013, while in 2009-10 there were four.
Evictions are not the total answer, but they offer a path to cleaning up neighborhoods.
Christopher “Brooklyn” Marks lived on Duerstein Street before being evicted for the first time in December 2011. He had a series of pit stops at different residences and subsequent evictions, along the way being arrested 17 times on narcotics-related and harassment charges.
Certainly Lackawanna, his new home, isn’t happy to have him. But South District residents have to be smiling. Their neighborhoods are being cleaned up one eviction at a time. Good riddance.