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Erie County sheriff discusses break-ins at Springville community forum

SPRINGVILLE — Many Springville residents turned out on Sept. 18 to listen to information on and voice their concerns about recent crime trends in Springville and the surrounding areas.

Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard and Police Chief Scott Joslyn of the sheriff’s department spoke about the statistics, which they said were not definitive numbers, but indicative of what is transpiring in the village of Springville.

In July, an unidentified man entered the Spring Creek Pharmacy and, threatening that he had a gun, demanded narcotics from an employee. When he obtained the drugs, he fled the building and is still at large.

Howard said that he is not surprised the Spring Creek robber committed the crime for drugs, adding that drug use is the main reason why more and more people are breaking into vehicles and homes throughout the Southtowns, stealing more property and invading homes. Many crimes outside Springville are showing links to the village. “There is some kind of connection to Springville,” Howard said.

Preliminary crime statistics for Springville showed that, between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31, the village has had three robberies, although Howard called two of them “drug deals gone bad.”

The village has also experienced eight residence burglaries, six non-residence burglaries, one garage burglary, one other burglary and 69 larcenies. Howard said that these trends are appearing to match prior years’, but that there is a potential for increase.

This past July was the busiest for criminals; the sheriff said that larcenies spiked to their highest levels, most likely because of warm weather conditions and students’ summer vacation, among other factors.

A recent incident involved a rural Springville man’s coming home and finding several firearms missing from his home. Deputies said they believed a friend or acquaintance was responsible for the theft, but the gun owner, in attendance at the forum, said he could not think of anyone who knew he had the firearms.

Howard said that such thefts are the most worrisome. “Where are those guns now?” he asked. “That’s scary.”

Producing a digital map of the area, Howard and Joslyn showed where most of the village crime is taking place: along Main Street and the surrounding roads.

Criminals walk by vehicles, look inside and test the doors. If they are unlocked, the perpetrators get inside the vehicle and take what they want. In most cases, loose change, cash and electronics are stolen, which criminals bring north to Buffalo and pawn for illegal drugs, according to Howard. “We’re targeting people [committing crimes] in rural areas, who later appear in Buffalo,” he said.

In some of the more rural areas, larcenies and robberies lessened, or did not occur at all, but, in some locales, those incidents worsened. Howard said that home invasions, none of which were reported in Springville, are more likely to occur in rural settings, because homes are usually set away from the road.

The sheriff offered preventative techniques to combat theft and burglaries: lock vehicle doors and remove valuables from inside them; keep aware of surroundings and monitor children’s activities on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Howard said that the latter tip assisted police investigations, in the past.

He added that social media sites contribute significantly to information’s falling into the wrong hands. Individuals go on vacation and post about their travels, thus alerting criminals to their empty homes.

The sheriff’s department operates on an annual budget of $101 million. Approximately 82 percent of those funds are spent on maintaining the jail and the remaining 18 percent goes to other costs.

The village of Springville is covered by contract. Howard said his department makes an effort to keep the same deputies in the village, to establish relationships and familiarity with the community and to “assist in trust and monitoring efforts.”

An audience member asked about the recent notification the village received from the police department, requesting an additional $65,000-plus, for police services. Howard said the forum was not the proper venue in which to discuss that issue, but added that funding negotiations have not been held between the police department and the village in some time and that, like many operating agencies throughout the nation, expenses continues to grow.

To contact Howard’s office, call 858-7608 or visit www.erie.gov/sheriff.
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