Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Public opinion of the city's newly announced "Impact Team Project" is a mixed bag weighed down with skepticism.
Last week, Mayor Michael Tucker announced creation of a multi-agency impact team and "impact zones," specific geographic areas that are targeted for increased police patrol and building code enforcement. The Niagara County Sheriff's Department and New York State Police are participating and sent representatives to the Friday press conference at City Hall, which drew TV news cameras as well as print reporters.
The first impact zone consists of twenty-five or so residential blocks roughly bounded by Erie, High, Transit and Walnut streets, Police Chief Lawrence Eggert said. Increased patrolling by multiple police agencies was to begin immediately, with an emphasis on Vehicle and Traffic Law enforcement by means including unannounced road blocks.
Within the zone, city building inspectors will be inspecting exteriors on 1,100 parcels looking for building code violations. All property types, single- as well as multiple-unit residential dwellings and commercial properties, are said to be in their sights.
Project Impact's aim is to weed out scofflaws and encourage property upkeep in sections of the city that struggle most with crime and blight. Tucker said it's also intended as a message to "outsiders," particularly non-residents engaged in drug trade, that order will be defended here.
The declaration followed a series of unusually violent and/or alarming criminal incidents in the city since November, including two shootings, the physical assault of a child and several significant drug busts.
Impact zones will be declared one at a time, based on spikes in local crime rates, Tucker said.
The Erie-High-Transit-Walnut zone is first after police noted a 27 percent increase in year-over-year police service calls in that area, Eggert said. Police service calls are anything police do, from writing parking tickets to fielding nuisance complaints to investigating a robbery. A sudden spike in the rate suggests the area could use extra policing, to "nip (problems) in the bud" before they're considered a normal part of the landscape, Eggert said.