I-TEAM: Partiers and bar patrons are being targeted on Allen Street

Posted at 4:55 AM, Nov 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-15 08:07:35-05

Walking up Allen Street in Buffalo on any given morning, you might experience something different than you might experience at night.

Shawnette Richards has lived off Allen Street for a couple of years.  She's seen the crowd ebb and flow.  But sometimes, she says, things get a little out of control.

"Usually it's people that are drunk. [There are] fights outside the bar," Richards said.  "Saturday nights, I don't really come out...the crowd...I can't do it."

Between Wadsworth and Park Street, the Allentown Association says there are 17 venues that serve alcohol.  That sometimes draws more people to the party than the neighborhood's entire population.  With that, comes some inherent danger.

"We're seeing people who are coming down, specifically to prey on the crowds that are here," said Jonathan White from the Allentown Association.

White says bars are often at capacity with hundreds more people free-flowing in the street.

"It creates conditions for other ratifications such as fights and other disputes," White said.  "The number of 911 calls has increased exponentially and those calls are being made by people who came here to drink."

The 7 Eyewitness News I-Team went digging through documents, obtained through the Freedom of Information Law, showing each Allen Street 911 call, between January 1 and October 31, 2018.

We discovered Buffalo Police were called to Allen Street at total of 1090 times.  

  • 81 of those calls were for a fight or an assault
  • 11 calls were at or in front of Duke's
  • 10 calls were at or in front of Allen Street Hardware
  • Nearly 20% were at or in front of Jim's Steakout, open until 5 a.m.
  • 26 calls were for gangs
  • 7 calls were for knives, guns, shootings, stabbings
  • 2 calls were for rape

"Sometimes it gets to the point where the crowd is just too much and you don't want to enter there yourself," Richards said. 

We asked if she was scared. "Kind of...yeah," Richards said.

In a statement, sent to 7 Eyewitness News, the owner of Allen Street Hardware wrote in part:

Over the years we have worked closely with  Buffalo Police Department, the Mayor's Office and with the Allentown Association to insure that nothing threatens the success that we have worked to attain. While there are occasional disturbances the effective communication that we have created with the Corridor's stakeholders has prevented any of the small things that have happened from escalating. There is nothing that has occurred that has in any way threatened the stability and success of our Corridor. In fact, most recent developments, namely the commitment by the mayor to create a new street-scape for the Allen Street Corridor, lead us to believe that the future of the Allen Street Corridor will be extremely bright.

One fight in particular outside Jim's Steakout and Towne Restaurant was from August, 2017. Police say they were able to respond quickly with the Allen Street detail.  They were outnumbered.

"The crowd is of such a size, that with the staffing levels of the police department, they simply do not have the manpower to control the crowd that's here," White said.

There's a concern about the number of officers on Allen detail, according to a police source, especially after the August arrest of Justin Colston.

Colston faces a felony weapons charge.  Police officers say they had to chase and "forcibly subdue" Colston, who had a gun, loaded with five rounds.

"I can't comment on what's going on socially right now in Buffalo," Joseph Muscato said.  Muscato is representing Colston. "The one thing I can tell you is a weapon was not found on my client's person."

Police say the gun was found in an alleyway, near Allen Burger Venture.

We've learned only four officers were on Allen Street detail then, with hours reduced from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m.

That source says two more officers were added to Allen Street detail only after another gun call.

"With the large crowds that are coming to the Allentown section, especially on the weekends, Buffalo police have increased foot patrols," a spokesman said via text.

When asked about foot patrols being increased from four to six officers, the spokesman said, "As you know, due to safety and security reasons, the department does not release specific manpower numbers."

"I suppose it's never enough," Councilman David Franczyk said. "Is it working? It's better than if you didn't have them."

Franczyk, who represents the area, says too many bars are to blame. He's tried to stop establishments from getting liquor licenses, but has failed.

"The other options are attempting to enforce our Special Use Permits and only give those that aren't a threat to public safety and try to fight it in court," Franczyk said.  "Other than that, there's not much we can do."

Now, days before the biggest party night of the year, Thanksgiving Eve, Franczyk says police will have help dealing with the consequences of the crowds, rather than dealing with the root cause.

Over the last six months, we've learned Buffalo police arrested nearly 60 people.  Almost half, they say, have been for disorderly conduct, drugs and theft.  Six have been for assault.

Police say they are working with the State Liquor Authority and the Buffalo Fire Marshal to increase safety on Allen Street.


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