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County again scrutinizing Pearl Street pedestrian bridge security

City of Buffalo

There is a covered bridge between the Rath Building and Main Place Mall that makes walking back and forth between the two buildings easy, especially in bad weather. However, it is also a security dilemma.

Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw is looking at security issues regarding the span over Pearl Street. There is a lot of foot traffic on the bridge hitting the security checkpoint in the Rath Building, with some of the security provided by uniformed deputy sheriffs.

Some people are county workers going to lunch and some are members of the public. The comptroller's staff asked for security tapes from Sheriff Tim Howard and Public Works Commissioner John Loffredo for the last three-months of last year, for study.

"There's a legal, binding contract pertaining to the operation of the bridge to the mall and so we're taking a look at that and just policies and procedures to make sure that we are keeping people safe in a very cost-effective manner," he said.

Mychajliw also said the county will be looking at policies and procedures pertaining to how sheriff deputies interact with the public.

"And so we wanted to take a portion of a time frame and look and see exactly what individuals were doing within the bridge to the mall," he said.

Mychajliw said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz already has a $2 million plan for improving Rath Building security.

"In the county executive's plan, there's also metal detectors for the first floor of the Rath Building," he said. "There're county employees who work as security guards and sheriff's deputies. So we're going to take a look at video tape and see, Is this a cost-effective way to protect the employees within the Rath Building and the general public?"

The comptroller said a key question is whether uniformed deputies should be working security instead of being out on patrol, or should they be replaced by members of the county's own security force.

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.