It’s not that serious

By Caitlin McHugh

Griffin Reporter

It was a feeling of helplessness that overcame Anthony Rebmann when he realized for the third time that he had been targeted.

Rebmann is currently a graduate student at Canisius College living off campus in the neighborhood surrounding the school. It was around 2:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning in late August that he, while fixing himself a snack after work before heading to bed, started to realize something felt unusual.

He noticed by the sound of the blinds moving that the windows were open, but didn’t think too far into it until he returned to his bedroom and it appeared that his laptop was no longer where he remembered leaving it. In addition to the misplacement of his computer, his wallet was also missing from its usual place next to his keys. Upon noticing this, he started to search his apartment and came across a garbage can outside that had been strategically placed underneath the windowsill and used as a tool to help climb into the home through the window.

Rebmann called the police when he realized what had happened and, when they arrived, he filed a police report for the $2,000 worth of items that were stolen from him. Rebmann said the police told him there was nothing much that they could do for him.

Three weeks later, Rebmann’s home was broken into again while he and his roommates were out. He shared that he left for a very brief amount of time to go get food while his roommates were downtown and, within that short period while he was away from the house, they broke in and stole more of his things. At the time, he did not realize this had happened; the next day, it was drawn to his attention when his friends wanted to use his Xbox that it was no longer in the home. When he looked out the window, he noticed that this time, there was a chair pushed up to the windowsill and the screen was open where the robber had entered the home.

Rebmann feels that the person responsible for committing all of these crimes is someone that is very experienced, and has been closely watching them and knows the best times at which to break into the home while they are all away.

“I think, one hundred percent, this is someone that’s watching us,” he said. “They know when we leave, they know when we come, they study us.”

He filed another police report when this second incident occurred; however, Rebmann shared that the police again told him that there is nothing that they could do for him in this situation. It was particularly disturbing to Rebmann when he shared what he felt to be a major detail with the police, and how lightly they addressed matters.

The robber left a note in pen underneath the windowsill that they used to enter and leave the home while committing these crimes, and Rebmann believes it to be associated with a gang sign that he feels links all of the people involved in these property crimes in the area.

The police responded to Rebmann’s photo by saying that they are aware of this “group” of people, but failed to act in any way to try to stop them.

It was the third time he was victimized, three weeks later, that Rebmann found himself past the point of being frustrated. This time, it was his car that was targeted. The suspect took a form of cutters and cut out the lock in the trunk of the car, leaving it damaged, and stole his sound system.

It was the response time of the police that was particularly disturbing to Rebmann. “It took them an hour and fourty-five minutes to come the third time,” he continued. “An hour and fourty-five minutes is not acceptable. What happens if something actually happened?”

Down the street, Chris Cary, a senior at Canisius College, and his roommates found themselves to be equally as frustrated with the response time and lack of action taken by the Buffalo police on multiple occasions of these property crimes occurring in the neighborhood surrounding the Canisius College campus.

On August 3, 2016, Cary was alarmed when he noticed around 9:00p.m. that his air conditioner was pushed out of his window. As he explored this finding further, the sound of footsteps in the backyard captured his full attention. When he discovered the source of the noises, he quickly noticed that the man in their backyard had Cary’s laptop in his hands.

Cary chased after the man and, when he finally was able to catch up to him, he punched him in the back of the head and grabbed the laptop from his hands. The suspect then ran off after the altercation with what Cary later realized was his Xbox and backpack. When he returned home after this incident, he called the non-emergency police number and explained to them what happened in hopes that they would arrive quickly. He then called 911 because they were taking a long time to get there, and even after the emergency dial, it took them an hour and a half to arrive at his home.

While the police were on their way to Cary’s home, he came across a bunch of scattered items around his outside yard, including a phone that did not belong to any of the residents. The robber came back about thirty minutes later, broke into the house again, and grabbed the phone all within the amount of time it took the police to get to the house.

Two weeks prior to this incident, the house was robbed as well. This robber also broke in through a window and stole a television, three laptop computers, and money from Cary’s roommates. There were multiple areas in which the suspect left damage around the home. Cary shared that, when asked if they could take fingerprints of the windowsill where the suspect entered the house, the police told him initially that they could not take them. Two weeks later, an investigator called him and said that they then could take fingerprints, but at this point it seemed that it would be useless.

“People could have gotten hurt, items could have been recovered, and people could have been arrested if the police had just done their job correctly,” Cary stated.

According to data on crimereports.com, between the months of July and November of 2016 alone, there are 40 reported property crimes in the neighborhood surrounding the Canisius College campus.

Multiple efforts were made to speak with police officials in regards to these numbers and property crimes that have been affecting students living off campus in the area. The chief of E-District Buffalo Police Department, Carmen Menza, refused to return phone calls after receiving multiple messages over the course of two months. There was even an attempt to speak with police at the District E station, but no one was made available to answer questions.

The Director of Public Safety at Canisius College, Chief H. Wilson Johnson, feels that although it is their job to focus on the crimes that take place on campus, it is still a concern that this is affecting students living in the area.

Johnson shared that, because campus safety is a different department than the Buffalo Police Department, there is a minimal amount of action they can take towards addressing the crime

reports received. Public Safety is responsible for notifying the Buffalo Police Department when they receive a report of a crime and for advising students to contact the Erie County Crime Analysis Center as an effort to determine who is behind all of these crimes.

He also addressed, in regards to the slow response time of arrival of the Police Department, that having previously worked as a chief in Rochester for [over] 32 years, these property crimes fall as a low priority on the list of crimes that occur in an urban area for a various amount of reasons. One of the reasons Johnson shared is a budgetary constraint, along with a lack of officers to send on these calls when “higher priority” calls are coming in.

“One of the things about property crimes is that it’s not a high priority call for the police department,” he stated. “One of the things that’s always frustrating is that you never have enough people working, and if you’re dealing with shootings and robberies and things that are threatening to people’s lives, unfortunately property crimes take a back seat.”

Public Safety is taking new steps towards helping to improve the safety of the students living off campus. Campus security cars are currently being replaced with vehicles that have the word “police” displayed on them as a method of alerting the community that there are licensed police officers working on campus and patrolling the area. Johnson shared that the Public Safety officers at Canisius have full policing abilities.

Students living off campus have the option of making a request for a security survey, in which an officer will be sent to their home to do a safety evaluation and help them be educated on what they can do to further protect themselves from becoming victims of property crimes.  

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