Saturday, February 27, 2021

Crime up for debate in Elmwood Village

Buffalo OpenData Portal chart

  By Rhiannon Browning 

            Questions have arisen in the Elmwood Village as to whether crime has increased over the past year. One thing for certain is that the residents are voicing their strong disagreements among each other through social media.

            A private Facebook group called The Residents of the Elmwood Village has around 1,200 members, all who live within the village limits. Among those members are people who believe that recent carjackings, armed robberies and break-ins around Elmwood Avenue mean that crime is on the rise.

            Longtime resident of Cleveburn Place Avenue and a member of the Elmwood Facebook group Joe Todaro said he wants to hear more updates on the recent criminal activity in the area.

            “While I don’t feel unsafe, this is the least safe I’ve felt,” Todaro said.

            Others are aware of these recent offenses, but rather than an uptick in crime, they think this is common every year and more people are just noticing it now.

           “In my opinion, there’s an unreasonable climate of fear,” said Courtney Friedline, a resident of Lancaster Avenue and Facebook group member.     

            Both the B-District and D-District of the Buffalo Police Department, which both cover areas of the Elmwood Village, held monthly meetings the past two months that addressed residents’ concerns on crime in the area.

            During the D-District monthly meeting on Feb. 3, Chief Joe Fahey provided statistics dating back from 2015 that showed crime hasn’t increased since that year. Buffalo’s D-District consists of the Black Rock neighborhood, Elmwood Village and North Buffalo.

            Much like the D-District, the B-District held a meeting on Feb. 15 that came to the same conclusion. This district includes areas of Allentown, downtown and Elmwood Village. District Chief Dawn Kent assured Elmwood  Village residents who attended that she is given daily reports that show trends through months and years. In these data reports, she found that crime has actually decreased steadily over time.

            Although the data show crime is not necessarily on the rise in the Elmwood Village, some locals still fear walking about the streets more than they used to.

            On Elmwood Avenue, Rustbelt Barbering and Salon Co. had two break-ins over the span of two weeks. Both the owner and his wife received donations from supporters all over Buffalo.

Broken door at Rustbelt Barbering

            Michelle Wilczewski lives around the corner from a recent stabbing that happened on the corner of West Ferry Street and Elmwood Avenue in the middle of the day. The authorities said it appeared to be a random act of violence.

            “I have never felt unsafe here until recently,” Wilczewski said. “I have to walk at least a block from my car to my apartment. My head is constantly on a swivel. If I see someone on the same side of the street as me, I cross over.”

            Lately, more police have been patrolling the area on foot after numerous complaints from residents. Wilczewski says that she expected more officers and longer shifts.

            Ceclia Johnson, a resident of the Elmwood Village who has attended multiple city council meetings, feels that a decrease in poverty is a better strategy in decreasing the recent upheaval in crime, rather than a greater police presence.

            “You don’t reduce crime with more police. You reduce crime by reducing poverty,” she said. “We’re going on a year of this pandemic and people are hurting. We have had little to no help from our government, which has just made already unequal conditions even worse.”

            Like Johnson, Friedline believes there is no proof for a decrease in crime from an increase in police. She encourages anyone in the Elmwood area to turn to the Partnership for the Public Good’s website. The partnership is a community-based operation that provides local research and data on topics like poverty, racism and issues on local policing in the area.

            “Our city is the third poorest of its size in the country. We do not have the resources we need,” Friedline said.