by Terry Duffy
Lewiston Police Chief Chris Salada has some simple words of advice for area residents when it comes to crime: Use some common sense to avoid becoming a victim.
Over past months, Lewiston Police have recorded a spike in calls by residents reporting break-ins, both to vehicles and to homes. Calls have come from all over the town - be it in the escarpment areas and Sanborn, in the village, businesses on the Center Street and Saunders Settlement Road strips, neighborhoods below the hill and also in the town's rural areas. Many have involved what Salada calls "petty crimes" - those involving entry to vehicles, many unlocked, where thefts of loose change, cell phones and other personal items have occurred. Others have involved break-ins to garages involving thefts of ATVs, bicycles, etc.
But there also have been break-ins to residences, where thefts of expensive items, such as jewelry, have been reported. "Those (type) are certainly not petty to the homeowner," Salada said.
And, he notes Lewiston isn't immune to this problem, as similar types of crimes have been also hitting residents in the north and lakeshore communities of late. "It's a county-wide problem," he said, noting the Niagara County Sheriff's Office and State Police have experienced similar increases. "Every summer we're busier; with the economy being bad, people will do things."
Salada downplayed any link of area break-ins to local drug use, noting that while drug arrests in the town and county continue to rise, attributing the latest spike in break-ins to drug activity is difficult. "How do you prove it?" he asked.
As to other crime, he said the majority of calls reported to Lewiston officers continues to be limited break-ins. LPD maintains two active patrols covering the town's north and south zones on a 24/7 basis, with more officers on duty for special events such as Artpark concerts or the many festivals that take place in the village. Salada doesn't envision any changes in the manpower.
Instead, Salada offers residents what he terms "a basic approach" to preventing themselves from becoming a victim:
•Protecting your home sometimes can be as simple as "using" your deadbolt lock and keeping an eye on your neighbors. Calling 911 for a suspicious person or vehicle that "doesn't fit" in your neighborhood is a great way for police to identify and determine if they belong in the neighborhood.
•Some other simple ways to protect your home include: installing a deadbolt lock; light up your home at night or install sensor lighting; trim your bushes so they don't cover your windows; install an alarm system; call 911 for suspicious activity or have a Lewiston Police officer come out and assess the security of your home.
•Protecting your vehicle can be boiled down to making sure your doors are locked, and parking it in a lit area at night when unattended.
"No community is 100 percent immune to criminal activity, but if the residents and the police work hand in hand, we can combat thievery from spreading through our neighborhoods," Salada said.
He advises residents to remain vigilant and call 911 as the need arises.