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Campus Security

Buffalo’s councilmembers ask state to give campus police greater powers

State university police officers could have the authority to make arrests and issue fines off campus, if state legislators pass a proposed bill to expand university police’s geographical jurisdiction. The increased university police presence would act as supplemental support to Buffalo police officers while enabling the university officers to immediately respond to a situation if they encounter one, be it on or off campus.

Buffalo councilmembers showed their support at Tuesday’s Common Council meeting by passing a resolution urging state representatives to pass this bill through the Senate and Assembly. The resolution was co-sponsored by North District Councilmember Joseph Golombek and University District Councilmember Bonnie Russell, who represent the areas that surround Buffalo State College and the University at Buffalo, respectively. “We see problems on a regular basis,” Golombek says. “But we end up losing, street by street, block by block.”

The University Heights neighborhood surrounding UB has made headlines recently after a shooting on Main Street between Lisbon and Highgate streets resulted in the death of a UB student. As a result, local residents have been calling for an increased police presence in the neighborhood. “I don’t think anyone alive could prevent violent acts from happening,” Russell says. “But a police presence does deter people.”

Especially at UB, when officers travel the roughly one-mile distance between the South and Amherst Campuses, they have to ignore any violations or infractions they witness. “It’s hard for constituents seeing university patrol cars who can’t help,” Russell says. “The more help we get, the better.”

Residents of the neighborhood have to contend with a number of issues when classes are in session: noise from late-night parties, litter on the streets, absentee landlords and violence. Dave Ellerbrock, president of the University Heights Collaborative, a watchdog group for the neighborhood surrounding UB’s South Campus, hopes that if passed, this bill will lead to increased collaboration between the Buffalo Police Department, University Police and the neighborhood’s inhabitants. “We’re pleased that there would be greater law enforcement. It’s a step in the right direction,” Ellerbrock says. “We still need to continue with empowering the residents to get more involved even in the little things like blight and landlords.”

Locally, Assemblymember Mark Schroeder co-sponsored the legislation, but it was originally requested by New York State University Police. According to Russell, this isn’t the first time the issue has been brought up, but was hamstrung in the past by union issue contracts. Ellerbrock hopes that the University Heights Collaborative can work together with Russell and both police forces to curb crime. “Knowing that they’re there will certainly decrease crime,” he says. “Sure, there’s always going to be some (violence). If they’re determined, they’ll get away with anything. But certainly this will give people pause.”

ellen przepasniak

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