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Quality-of-life policing on the rise
Police officers wrote more summonses this summer for noise complaints, open containers, high grass and other quality- of-life offenses than at any point in at least seven years.
Some Common Council members complained this spring that not enough was being done to target nuisances that have undermined neighborhoods and spurred many people to move to the suburbs.
New figures released Wednesday indicate that in July and August, officers wrote 2,044 summonses for quality of- life problems. That’s an increase of more than 80 percent from last summer, and up nearly 170 percent when compared with a similar period in 2005.
The dramatic increase reverses a decline in the number of quality-of-life tickets officers wrote in the first five months of the year. Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson gave credit to a new initiative that assigns some patrol cars in each district to focus on neighborhood nuisances. The effort includes having officers park their vehicles and walk the streets in some areas, a practice that law enforcers said has enhanced police visibility.
Gipson discussed the initiative with Mayor Byron W. Brown and other members of CitiStat, Buffalo’s accountability panel. Brown noted there are still problems that need to be addressed, saying he visited the Linwood-Oxford neighborhood three times last weekend to check out complaints about excessive noise. The mayor said one home was blaring music so loud that it could be heard down the street.
The more aggressive offensive against quality-of-life complaints has contributed to higher police overtime costs, officials acknowledged Wednesday. Overtime is also up because law enforcers are given the flexibility to stay on the job longer if they’re investigating serious crimes.
Deputy Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said violent crime is down 18 percent this year, including a 30 percent decline in homicides. Brown said spending overtime to reduce crime is a “life and death” issue.
“When it comes to the safety of residents of the city, I don’t want to be a bean counter,” Brown said.
Police overtime has been running about $200,000 a week since July — double what the city has budgeted. Brown agreed with Finance Commissioner Janet Penksa when she underscored the need to get a better handle on overtime projections. “We do have to live within our means,” Brown said.
The mayor added that he hopes federal officials act soon to authorize the results of a police exam that was administered this spring. The city hopes to hire at least 48 officers, and possibly as many as 67. Officials claim the new hires will ease a manpower shortage.
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Photos by Angel Art LTP, compliments of the Greater Buffalo Convention and Visitors Bureau. Additional photos by Adrian Roselli, compliments of Algonquin Studios