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Three arrests made in robberies believed to have targeted East Side Muslims

Buffalo police and the Erie County District Attorney's Office are probing a series of crimes that appear to target a Muslim neighborhood on the city's East Side.

District attorney John Flynn says his office is studying whether this is a pattern of hate crimes aimed at a community which is heavily, and visibly, Muslim. In a news conference Thursday, Flynn said there have been three arrests and officers are continuing to work the cases.

"We have three individuals who have been arrested and arraigned, so far, with a series of robberies that have occurred on the East Side and they appear to be targeting members of the Muslim community," Flynn said.

While one of the three is an adult for criminal prosecution purposes, the two others are not. Flynn says both fall within the Raise The Age law, which sends them to family court. However, he says his office will argue the circumstances of the two robberies involved in these arrests fall within an exception to that law and the 16-and 17-year-old should be dealt with as adult criminals.

Flynn said the burglaries occurred at times when residents might be involved in religious observances. Buffalo Police Capt. Jeff Rinaldo said patrol officers in that area have established good relationships with residents and that paid off in the arrests.

"These were violent and aggressive robberies that occurred and they were able to quickly identify a pattern through some information from the public put together a profile of who the suspects might be," Rinaldo said.

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.