High crime and house parties remain concerns in University Heights neighborhood
Students plagued with crime while police continue to crackdown on house parties
Last year, Thomas Garry’s friend was held up at gunpoint and robbed by two teenagers in the University Heights neighborhood. When his friend tried to run away, she was tackled to the ground and a gun was placed on her chest.
“She was walking to a party down the block,” Garry, a junior political science major, said. “That same party she was walking to had six squad cars outside of it to break it up.”
Garry and other UB students are frustrated by the university’s perceived lack of involvement in crime against students in the University Heights neighborhood, located right off of UB’s South Campus. Students feel the university is more concerned about students throwing overcrowded house parties, which often disturb residents living in the neighborhood.
Seven students were arrested during the house party crackdowns between Aug. 25 and 27, the weekend before the fall semester began, according to Deputy Chief of Police Joshua Sticht.
“Seven arrests in three days, I’m happy with that,” Sticht said.
Twelve UB students were arrested while 60 received Student Wide Judiciary referrals during last year’s police house party crackdowns in the neighborhood throughout the first month of school.
Sticht said while some students may feel the university does not try to prevent these robberies from occurring, UPD alone is not capable of carrying out such an endeavor.
Sticht said he doesn’t have enough police officers to patrol the University Heights neighborhood regularly. He said the university is a “very safe environment based on UPD’s staffing, so UB would be underserved if UPD officers were patrolling regularly in the Heights for crime.”
Some students don’t feel this is a valid explanation for the lack of police involvement when it comes to robberies.
Alexander Chesley, a senior political science major, said his house was robbed twice over the summer and once this past winter.
“If they don’t have the resources for stopping these [crimes] from going on, why do six or seven police squad cars show up to stop a house party?” Garry said.
Chesley’s social security card and birth certificate were stolen from his Winspear home in July.
“What bothers me is that this has been happening for a while, even during last winter break and UB doesn't take blame because technically the Heights isn't a part of campus,” Chesley said. “It's like a live at your own risk scenario, but most of the houses on Winspear are occupied by UB students.”
Chesley’s roommates were still in the house when the second burglary took place.
“Two of my roommates were home upstairs watching a movie and apparently this guy walked in through the back door, which we had unlocked because people were home and my roommate didn't even know he was in the house until he heard his door get kicked down,” he said.
Chesley said his roommate chased the burglars out but they already grabbed his money and Xbox console.
Chesley’s roommate called the police after the incident occurred and he was told that an officer would be sent over to the house. Chesley stayed up until 3 a.m. and an officer never arrived.
Chesley wrote a lengthy Facebook message to UB and the Buffalo Police department after the second burglary, urging them to help stop burglaries in the area.
The university responded stating it takes student safety “very seriously.” Chesley said the response was a “nice sentiment, but overall solved nothing.”
Sticht, UPD Police Chief Gerald Schoenle and University Heights Collaborative President Mickey Vertino patrolled the Heights neighborhood this past weekend.
Loud parties in the Heights neighborhood are usually at an all-time-high during the first weekend when students return to school, according to Vertino.
Roughly eight Buffalo Police officers accompanied UPD and Vertino on house party raids, according to Sticht. Buffalo Police began patrolling the area on Aug. 25.
Vertino said they patrolled the neighborhood to make an assessment of “how students come back” to Buffalo.
The university was supposed to slow down the influx of buses coming into South Campus that weekend as per a public safety agreement with the UB Stampede, according to Vertino. He said the buses still came roughly every five minutes rather than the 20-minute interval the agreement indicated.
Vertino said house parties in the Heights place students in “harm’s way.” He said these patrols help to ensure safety and welfare of UB students.
Garry said delaying the bus schedule will only cause more drinking and driving.
Vertino said he and UPD performed a crackdown on a house located on Englewood Avenue, where roughly 300 partygoers occupied every room in the house, including the basement and attic.
He said he knows students are seeking ways to have fun, but many students do not realize that dangers such as carbon monoxide poisoning can occur when parties become overcrowded like this.
“What we can do to [to ensure safety] is make them more aware,” Vertino said. “They don’t realize… a lot of these are new students and these house parties have become the social club for these students.”
“The Buffalo Police do the best job that they can but they are severely understaffed so it makes it difficult for them to handle all of these calls for service,” Sticht said.
He said UPD can’t go out alone and patrol for crime, but must do so in accordance with Buffalo Police. It would require “a lot of work as far as agreements” to carry this out, according to Sticht.
Chesley said he understands that Buffalo Police have other priorities other than student robberies but still feels they need to take more responsibility.
“Buffalo PD isn't concerned about a bunch of kids who are crying about getting the Xbox 1 their parents bought for them stolen, especially when there are constantly shootings all the time, I get that, I understand,” Chesley said. “However, UB needs to understand that because of this, our voices are drowned out.”
Chesley has met with Buffalo Councilman Rasheed Wyatt to discuss the burglaries.
Stitcht attributes many of these burglaries to absentee landlordism.
“I’ve heard horror stories about students who when they first move in the locks on the door are broken and it takes the landlord several weeks to address that,” Sticht said.
Stitcht said landlords must take more responsibility to help prevent these robberies.
Dan Ryan, UB director of Off-Campus Student Services said he has heard “second and third hand” about problems, but no one has spoken to him directly. He said he tries “very hard” to get students to be careful when choosing apartments
Chesley said that he has taken a few precautions to prevent burglaries from occurring again. He said he makes sure all of his doors and windows are locked, but “that doesn't mean [burglars] can't kick a door down like they already have.”
He said he knows people that have bought bats, bb guns, paintball guns and have had security systems installed to protect themselves.
“A big problem though is that during break times, like summer and winter, is when theft is at its peak. It's like students are being targeted,” Chesley said. “UB needs to realize the Heights is basically their own little neighborhood and it's sad to see that the school isn't that invested in the community because it has so much potential.”