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Cameras, checkpoints and other crime issues highlight town hall meeting

National Public Radio

Crime remains a big issue in Buffalo's mayoral campaign, with violence not going away. Wednesday night at the Merriweather Library, Mayoral Candidate and Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant held one of her town hall meetings - this time on body and dash cameras, red light cameras and police checkpoints.

None seemed all that popular with the small crowd. Maurice Abram spoke about the problems of the court system protecting bad cops. Abram said having cops living in neighborhoods can make life easier for cops and residents.

"Fifteen years ago, I was a police officer in this city - in the middle of the night, one officer walking down Genesee from Michigan to Jefferson, in the middle of the night. I've done it," Abram recalled. "The only reason I was able to do it was that's my neighborhood. When people see me, they spoke to me. I spoke to them. I wasn't worried about what was going to happen, how bad it was going to be, because I knew people."

Abram said the problem with police checkpoints is that guns and drugs are from outside the city and that is what checkpoints should be concerned about.

Another speaker, Katrina Martin-Bordeaux, is familiar with red light cameras. Martin-Bordeaux said she was riding in a car in Oakland, CA which went through a signal.

"I wasn't the driver. My friend was the driver," Martin-Bordeaux said. "She went through, I mean it was yellow, it was yellow for us. That's how it goes. They actually sent the ticket in the mail and the picture is actually of the driver. They could actually see the driver. So it's not like it's just a picture of the car. The way that we knew we went through it was is because all of a sudden this big, back in the day, flash came on."

Martin-Bordeaux said her friend had some vision problems for a while after that flash. She sees the high-tech crime-fighting tool as the stage before drones fly over the city monitoring what is going on.

Several speakers said they do not like the street corner surveillance cameras because they cost a lot of money and do not seem to accomplish anything. Even when they see a crime, they are too far away for the image to be useful.

There was some support for police body cameras and dashboard cameras in police cars. The meeting also gave activist Gloria Hill a shot at Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda as not concerned enough about violence.

"Black Americans, I believe, it is a thing of he's not sensitive to culture," Hill said. "I have watched him and I'm appalled at how Derenda has responded and closed up his eyes and ears to the violence in Buffalo."

Hill said parents and the community have to do much more to help in the fight against violence.

Many speakers said there is not enough being done about bad behavior by cops, with too many judges giving bad cops a free ride.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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