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Cheektowaga To Add Security To Town Park | News

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Cheektowaga To Add Security To Town Park
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CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. - Two weeks ago a teenager was gunned down at Cheektowaga Town Park. Now, neighbors are getting some answers from police about what happened.

"We do not want our neighborhood to go down the tubes," said one Cheektowaga resident at a meeting Tuesday night.

There were concerns like that and worries of more violence in Cheektowaga as the basement of a church school was packed with residents of all ages and races wanting to know exactly what led to the killing of Ira Watkins. He was shot just outside the basketball courts at Town Park.

"Ira Watkins just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time when the wrong people showed up," said Cheektowaga Police Chief Dave Zack.

Zack says there is a perception crime is high in Town Park but says statistics show it's actually down since 2005. He called the shooting an isolated incident and said some gang members were tipped off that a rival gang was in the park the day of the shooting for a water balloon fight that was advertised on Facebook. The chief said victim was not affiliated with any gang.

"It's not the park," said Zack. "The park is not the problem. The problem is in the surrounding neighborhoods."

But some say the basketball court at the park is the real problem and some want it closed. Comments quickly led to a conversation about white and black residents and the segregation some people feel.

"You guys are thinking the cause is the basketball court and we know who plays on your basketball court," said one resident. "I don't feel like I'm a member of your family."

"I don't care if you're green or purple as long as you keep up your home values in the town, take care of your neighborhood like we do," said another resident.

It's in those neighborhoods where police say they will focus. There will be beefed up patrols and smaller patrol coverage areas for officers. The chief says there is now an officer assigned to the town park to ease some of the concerns of residents. He's also recommending to the town board to install more cameras at the town park and possibly a license plate reader to keep track of who's coming and going. He wants the perception of crime to fear out of his jurisdiction.

Cheektowaga Town Supervisor Mary Holtz was also at the meeting. She said the town will start cracking down on absentee landlords and vacant properties, problems she says need to be addressed to also help reduce crime and problems in some of the neighborhoods.

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