Tim Hobin never thought he’d have to put metal bars in the windows of his Cottage Street apartment on the western end of Allentown. He’s lived there for almost three years, and he said it’s always been a safe neighborhood.
But after burglars broke into his home and a neighbor’s home and stole their personal belongings over the past week, Hobin is bolstering his apartment’s security.
“It’s like nothing has ever really happened, and now there’s this huge rash of things happening,” he said.
Allentown residents like Hobin are concerned after an uptick in crime involving break-ins and face-to-face encounters, some occurring while residents were at home. Buffalo Police Department records show that in a five-day span from last Friday through Tuesday, at least seven such crimes were reported to Buffalo police in the Allentown area. That includes five burglaries or attempted burglaries, plus an assault and a vehicle break-in.
The numbers are apparently up – during the same five-day period in June, there were only three such crimes. Similar crimes have been reported over the last week in surrounding neighborhoods, up through the Elmwood Village, according to police records. And since Tuesday, more crimes, including grand larcenies, were reported around Cottage Street.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda and spokesman Michael DeGeorge said that there has been no unusual crime activity on the West Side and that any increase could be attributed to any number of factors, including the warm weather, which always comes with an increase in crime. They said they spoke to Central District Chief Brian Patterson, who heads the Central District which includes Allentown, and that numbers actually appear to be down. During a recent, routine walk through the neighborhood, Chief Patterson asked for residents’ input on what officers could do, DeGeorge added.
“Although there’s been just a few incidents, as we always say, one incident is one too many, therefore Buffalo police has added patrols to the area to ensure the safety of residents,” DeGeorge said. He advised residents to report activity that appears suspicious and do “the little things,” such as locking doors and leaving lights on, to help prevent crimes.
But residents in the Days Park and Cottage Street area of Allentown said they’ve definitely noticed an increased volume of break-ins.
Hobin said the burglary at his apartment – he lost an iPod, a Kindle and a portable DVD player – was the first crime-related incident he’s had since moving in almost three years ago.
“They’re coming in while people are home. That’s what’s scary,” said Deb Ellis, president of the Days Park Block Club. Ellis said she’s mostly heard stories from residents of burglars coming in through open back windows and hasn’t heard of anyone forcefully entering homes.
Days Park resident Jessica Buscaglia said that in the beginning of the summer, a burglar slit the screen door to the first floor apartment in her building, taking money and a laptop. Buscaglia, who lives in the second-floor apartment, said thieves rummaging through unlocked cars is fairly common in the neighborhood. But she is unnerved by the home break-ins.
“In the home, it is a little more disconcerting,” she said. “It’s pretty violating.”
One resident who lives on Maryland Street, which intersects Cottage Street, said a burglar entered his home one morning about three weeks ago and stole a laptop as he was preparing for work. The resident, who did not want to be identified, said he went downstairs to load clothes in the dryer and then upstairs to put the dog away. By the time he returned to the first floor, the laptop was missing and his home’s back door was wide open.
“It was quick. It was quiet. I didn’t even know it happened,” said the resident, who estimates he was probably gone for two or three minutes. “It freaks me out a little bit. They were definitely bold.”
Another resident, who also did not want to be identified, said he came face-to-face with someone who entered his home at about 9 p.m. Tuesday. The resident, who owns both the first- and second- floor apartment in the building on Cottage Street, said he was making renovations to the first-floor apartment and left the door unlocked.
The resident said he heard the door to the foyer open and walked out to investigate. He approached the stranger, who appeared to be in his 50s, and confronted him. The man said he was looking for someone named “Phil” on the second floor and appeared distracted, afraid and scared, the resident said. The unidentified person then backed away and left.
“I shut the door behind and locked it. I didn’t even follow him,” the resident said, adding he was surprised to see someone walk in, as the lights to his second-floor apartment were turned on.
“You would think that they could see that someone was living there,” the resident, who did not notify police, said.
Kelly and John Weber, residents of a home on Days Park, said they believe that two or three weeks ago, a bicycle was stolen from their home and used as a “getaway vehicle.” Someone entered the home behind the Webers’ and came face-to-face with that homeowner, the Webers said.
The Webers believe the suspect ran through their backyard in an attempt to escape, commandeering the bike and fleeing. The family’s backyard gate was open when they arrived home and police arrived shortly after.
“It’s a scary feeling to know that people are doing this while people are at home,” Kelly Weber said.
“Whoever it is seems not to care whether people are home or not,” her husband added.