Two Police Initiatives to Keep Shoppers, Business Owners Safe

September 27, 2013 Updated Apr 21, 2010 at 7:19 PM EDT

By Laura Gray

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September 27, 2013 Updated Apr 21, 2010 at 7:19 PM EDT

NIAGARA FALLS, NY ( WKBW) --- OreLean Simmons says things are pretty quiet along Main Street in Niagara Falls. In fact, things are a little too quiet sometimes. Many of the businesses have shut down, turning it into a virtual ghost town at night. "I'll be (at my store) a lot of times late at night, but I lock myself in."

Simmons hasn't had any problems at Shauntae's Fashions recently, but Lt. Bryan DalPorto says there has been an increase in crime in the area. "Everything from larceny to serious felonies." That's why starting in May, Niagara Falls police are launching the Business District Initiative. The Initiative will include more mobile police presence. That includes uniformed officers on foot, bike, and vehicle patrol.

Also starting in May, officers will be stationed at various shopping plazas for Safe Shopping Days. Police will chose the locations based on CompStat, a computerized program that keeps track of criminal activities.

Mayor Paul Dyster and City Council have approved overtime for more officers for Safe Shopping Days and the Business District Initiative. They also recently announced overtime approval to fight gang violence. Paul Bene, owner of House of Fantasy Comics and Games, supports the city's attempt to reduce crime. "There's been an explosion of gang violence and drug dealing. And I think it's always good to have more police on the streets."

Simmons is also relieved to hear that Niagara Falls police are beefing up patrols. Police recently moved into a new building on Main Street, across the street from Shauntae's Fashions. That has added a sense of comfort. Simmons hopes the police presence brings new customers and new businesses back to downtown Niagara Falls. "Now they are fixing up buildings on Main Street. It's a good idea. Now maybe somebody will open one up."