Claiming some corner stores have become "community centers for criminals," a group of local lawmakers is calling for a crackdown on unscrupulous deli owners.
Several Buffalo Common Council members were joined by State Senator Tim Kennedy Friday at a news conference in City Hall. They condemned store owners who sell stolen merchandise, peddle drug paraphernalia, engage in EBT card fraud and promote other types of crimes. Lawmakers said some businesses have become breeding grounds for illicit activities and insisted that tougher regulations are needed to protect neighborhoods.
“When crime is going on at it's low-level and it’s in a house somewhere, we don’t see it, that’s one thing," said Lovejoy Council Member Richard Fontana. "But when people are doing crimes out in the open and think it’s a normal course of business, that’s another thing and those are the types of crimes that upset law makers."
Rasheed Wyatt, who represents the University District, said of the 31 corner stores in his district, three or four are problems. He warned business owners that officials know what stores are causing problems and that enforcers will take steps to protect the community.
A proposed crackdown includes provisions that would make it easier to pull store licenses, impose fines and require stores to post the number of a complaint line so people can report problems.
"Residents are scared to report these bad actors for fear of retaliation or because they simply don't know where they can turn for help," Kennedy told reporters.
South Council member Christopher Scanlon issued this warning to unscrupulous store owners:“We cannot and will not allow business to continue as usual the way they’re operating. Far too often we’re seeing the effects of the way they operate, damaging our neighborhoods.”
WBFO's Thomas O'Neil-White contributed content to this report.