LOCKPORT – As the smell of marijuana filled Common Council Chambers, Mayor Michael W. Tucker on Friday proclaimed a new police crackdown in the Genesee Street-Washburn Street area of Lockport.
The marijuana had been seized Thursday afternoon after a traffic stop on Washburn ended with the arrest of a Niagara Falls man on drug charges. It was precisely the kind of activity the crackdown is supposed to prevent. Tucker said he intends to designate an “impact zone” within the city whenever there’s a rash of crime. The first such zone will center on the corner of Washburn and Genesee.
Police Chief Lawrence M. Eggert said the zone will cover about 16 city blocks, roughly bounded by South Transit, Walnut, High and Erie streets.
He said that in November and December 2012, the number of calls for police service in that area was 27 percent higher than in the same period in 2011.
There have been two shootings in that area in the past month, Eggert said. Out-of-towners are believed to be responsible for most of the trouble, Tucker said, and a lot of it has been drug-related.
The city police will step up patrols in the zone, and the State Police and Niagara County Sheriff’s Office have agreed to help, Tucker said.
“We’re going to be meeting with some neighborhood groups,” Eggert said. “It’s important the neighborhood doesn’t think we’re targeting them. We’re trying to protect them.”
Tucker said that in the past two years, Housing Visions has invested $8 million in 33 new housing units after buying most of Genesee Street, and the city is trying to nail down a deal for Trek Inc. to move from Medina to Harrison Place at Washburn and Walnut streets. That would bring in nearly 100 jobs. “We’re not going backwards,” Tucker vowed.
He said the city already has a surveillance camera at Washburn and Genesee, and he has asked State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, and Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, R-Clarence, to line up state money for three more cameras. They cost about $8,000 each.
“I will have the Police Department establish traffic roadblocks within the zone at random times and locations, so the message is spread that, whether you are driving a stolen vehicle or just an uninspected vehicle, we will enforce the laws full force in those areas,” Tucker said.
He also ordered the Building Inspection Department to crack down on dilapidated buildings in the impact zone.
Tucker also urged the District Attorney’s Office to “offer less favorable pleas” after arrests in the impact zone.
About 4:40 p.m. Thursday, an officer pulled a driver over on Washburn for failure to signal a turn and not wearing a seat belt. He smelled a strong odor of marijuana in the auto. Driver George M. Stephens, 32, of 26th Street, Niagara Falls, fled and was eventually caught on Elm Court. Marijuana, crack and $128 were seized. Stephens was charged with third- and seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, unlawful possession of marijuana, resisting arrest, obstructing governmental administration and the traffic infractions. A passenger in the car, believed to be a Lockport man, escaped.