Community banding together to clean up crime

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The University Heights residents say they’re a bit on edge after a shooting outside of Jim’s Steak Out on Main Street.

Now, they’re looking at the area where it happened and banding together to make a difference.

“I talked to a lot of people in the neighborhood and everybody wants safety,” Mickey Vertino, the president of the University Height Collaborative.  “I don’t care who are you are, the culture, what neighborhood you live in, we want it safe.”

The University Heights Collaborative is a grassroots group focusing on cleaning up crime near the University at Buffalo South campus.

“With the community taking the lead on this, it really has to come from the ground up,” said Vertino.  “That’s what we have in this community. The community to do these things and we want to help.”

Vertino has lived in the area for 35 years and says he feels crime in declining.

“I feel it. I know it,” said Vertino. “I walk around day and night in this neighborhood. Crime is down and I want to see it go further down.”

The grassroots group is working with Buffalo city police, the peacemakers, and VOICE Buffalo; their efforts are now focusing on the Lisbon area – near where the shooting happened outside of Jim’s Steak Out.

“It’s the young kids who aren’t thinking,” said Vertino about the criminal activity happening in the area. “I don’t think they’re mature enough to know what they’re doing to others. They’re terrorizing the neighborhood with these violent crimes.”

According to CrimeReports, a service used to track criminal activity reported to police, since the beginning of the year, there have been more than 20 reported incidents in the area where the collaborative group is stepping up their efforts. The crimes include assaults, thefts, breaking and entering, and robberies.

Terrence Morath lives in the area where these violent crimes are happening.

“I came home from a New Year’s Eve and my door was kicked in,” said Morath, who has live in the area for longer than a decade. “It wasn’t kicked it all the way – they didn’t get into the house because I have a dog.  The neighborhood is going down though.”

After 12 years living there, Morath says he won’t be sticking around to see if change is coming to the area.

“Im about be a father,” said Morath.  “I’m not going to be living here [anymore]. I’m moving to Niagara County. I really don’t want to raise my son here.”

Vertino believes if everyone works together, changing the area and cleaning up crime in a realistic goal.

“We’re building community and you can’t even spell community without unity.”

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